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State CFO Asks Olympic Committee To Move 2021 Games To Fla., Mentioning Jax

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Hiro Komae
/
Associated Press
Paul Juda of the U.S. competes in the pommel horse during an international gymnastics meet in Tokyo on Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020.

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis has sent a letter to the International Olympic Committee, encouraging the body to consider relocating the 2021 Olympics from Japan to Florida.

“When most states shut down their sporting events, the city of Jacksonville hosted the Ultimate Fighting Championship (the UFC), and the National Basketball Association (NBA) set up the 'bubble' to hold games in Orlando,” Patronis wrote in the letter which was released by his office Monday.

Patronis’ office said he sent the letter because “Recent media reports have stated that leaders in Japan have ‘privately’ concluded that they are too concerned about the pandemic for the 2021 Olympics to take place."

Japanese officials have publicly denied the rumors, dismissing an anonymously sourced report by the British newspaper The Times that there is a growing consensus within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party that this summer's games must be scrapped and that Japan should bid for the next available slot in 2032.

"We would like to fully deny (the report) by saying there is no such fact," Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Manabu Sakai told reporters last week.

Patronis didn't get into any hosting specifics, instead offering examples of how sports have continued in Florida, despite the pandemic.

"During football season the National Football League (NFL) and college teams were able to compete on Florida soil. Additionally, our international tourist destinations, like Disney parks, have been open and operating safely in Florida for some time. In fact, Disney serves as an incredible model for how to run a complex organization in the midst of COVID-19," Patronis wrote.

He concluded his proposal, “Whatever precautions are required, let’s figure it out and get it done.”   

Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told his parliament Friday that he was determined to make the games happen this time and that authorities are "considering specific anti-virus measures" to ensure the Olympic events can be held safely.

At the moment, Japan's biggest cities — Tokyo and Osaka, along with several other prefectures — are under a state of emergency aimed at halting a third wave of coronavirus infections. The emergency will last until at least Feb. 7.

If Japan fails to flatten the curve, the emergency could be extended. Some decision will likely have to be made before the Olympic Torch Relay is scheduled to begin on March 25.

The largest sporting event that Jacksonville has hosted was the 2005 Super Bowl.

- NPR contributed to this report

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at bbortzfield@wjct.org or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.