Will Coronavirus Threaten the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo?
The 2020 Olympic Games are scheduled to kick off in Tokyo on 24 July, but with the spread of the coronavirus seemingly not slowing down, event organizers might be faced with a tough decision.
In an interview with the Associated Press, senior International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound said that the committee has a three-month window of time to decide whether to host the Tokyo Games or cancel the event, depending on the status of the virus.
The virus—which originated in Wuhan, China, and began spreading in December 2019—has infected 95,501 people and caused 3,286 deaths worldwide to date, as well as 331 people in Japan, 6 of whom died from the disease, according to worldometers.info/coronavirus.
Because of the outbreak, the World Indoor Championships, scheduled for mid-March in Nanjing, China, was postponed to 2021. The Tokyo Marathon, scheduled for March 1, also cancelled its mass participation race, though it did still host elite men’s and women’s races.
Of course, cancelling an Olympic Games is much more devastating than cancelling any other event. Athletes build entire four-year training blocks around the Olympics, cities plan enormous operations to construct the necessary facilities, and TV broadcast networks worldwide bank on the summer coverage. The IOC cannot simply delay the Olympics until the fall or move it to another city, Pound said.
“You just don’t postpone something on the size and scale of the Olympics. There’s so many moving parts, so many countries and different seasons, and competitive seasons, and television seasons,” Pound told the A.P.
He continued, “To move the place is difficult because there are few places in the world that could think of gearing up facilities in that short time to put something on.”
As of now, Pound said the Olympics are scheduled to happen as planned. According to him, the IOC is currently waiting to consult with the World Health Organization (WHO) before making a decision. In the meantime, he recommended that athletes continue preparing as usual for the championship this summer.
“Certainly the advice we’re receiving externally from the WHO is that there’s no case for any contingency plans or canceling the games or moving the games,” John Coates, the head of an IOC inspection team, said last month in Tokyo.
Tokyo organizing committee CEO Toshiro Muto addressed Pound’s comments in a press conference with the A.P. on 26 February.
“Our basic thoughts are that we will go ahead with the Olympic and Paralympic Games as scheduled,” Muto told the A.P. “For the time being, the situation of the coronavirus infection is, admittedly, difficult to predict, but we will take measures such that we’ll have a safe Olympic and Paralympic Games.”
This article originally appeared on runnersworld.com