Despite Concerns over COVID-19, IOC Ardent on Hosting Tokyo 2020

Despite facing pressure due to concerns about the coronavirus outbreak, organizers of the 2020 Tokyo Games will not consider cancelling or postponing the events which are scheduled to take place later this summer.

CNN reported on Thursday that neither the Japanese authorities nor the International Olympic Committee are considering cancelling the 2020 games. “I want to again state clearly that cancellation or postponement of the Tokyo Games has not been considered,” said Yoshiro Mori, the Tokyo 2020 president. International Olympic Committee member John Coates further emphasized that the event organizers are working to ensure athletes and spectators will not be affected.

Thomas Bach, the President of the International Olympic Committee, said to reporters that the IOC is fully committed to hosting the Olympics as scheduled.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics are scheduled to take place between July 24th and August 9th. However, host nation Japan is currently facing challenges in combating against the COVID-19 virus, which has caused more than 2,800 deaths and infected more than 80,000 people around the world, as of Feb. 27th.

The majority of those cases are reported from mainland China. In Japan, there are 919 cases, causing eight deaths since the outbreak. Facing with containing the coronavirus, Japanese authorities decided to close all schools, which will impact 13 million students in the country. Japan becomes the second country to close its schools after China, which ordered all schools to transition their courses to online.

According to reports from CNBC, the World Health Organization is advising the Tokyo Olympics organizers on the future of the major sporting event. Thus far, there is no decision made to cancel the summer Olympics. According to Dr. Mike Ryan, the head of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, the World Health Organization is working “extremely closely” with the event organizers, providing risk assessment and management advice.

The possibility of the Olympics being cancelled came to the media’s attention following comments made by senior IOC member, former Canadian swimming champion Dick Pound. According to a report from the Associated Press, Pound said on Tuesday that the organizers are more likely to cancel the Olympics in Tokyo rather than postponing it, if the coronavirus outbreak is proven to be too dangerous. Pound further suggested that there is a two or three-month window that is going to determine the future of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. However, Pound encouraged athletes to continue their training.

The modern Olympics have been cancelled twice, both times during World War II. In 2016, the Olympics Game in Brazil went on as scheduled despite the Zika virus outbreak.

Any alteration to the plans will create severe challenges for the Japanese organizers. An Associated Press report suggested that Japan spent about $12.6 billion on the Olympics. However, the country’s national audit board says that the actual spending is almost twice that of the proclaimed amount.

There are a number of sports leagues and events affected by the coronavirus outbreak since January. The Formula One Chinese Grand Prix was postponed until further notice. The Chinese domestic football and basketball leagues are now under indefinite suspensions as well.