(TMU) — As East Asian countries continue to struggle with the spreading novel coronavirus, a senior member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has warned that the Tokyo Olympic Games may be cancelled if authorities fail to contain its spread within the next two to three months.
Long-standing IOC member Dick Pound told the Associated Press on Tuesday that if fears aren’t calmed by around May, organizers would have no choice but to cancel the games, rather than postpone or move them. The former Canadian swimming champion who has been on the top committee told AP:
“In and around that time, I’d say folks are going to have to ask: ‘Is this under sufficient control that we can be confident about going to Tokyo or not?’”
And as the opening ceremony for the games approaches fast, he said, “a lot of things have to start happening. You’ve got to start ramping up your security, your food, the Olympic Village, the hotels. The media folks will be in there building their studios.”
Since the viral outbreak began in China two months ago, over 80,000 people have been infected worldwide, with 2,700 dying—mostly in China. However, NHK World reports that as of Tuesday, 861 people in Japan are confirmed to be infected. Japan has reported four deaths so far.
On Wednesday, Japan’s J. League decided to postpone all domestic soccer matches up to the first half of March, reports Reuters.
The summer Olympic Games, which are set to kick off on July 24, will bring about 11,000 athletes to Tokyo. Another 4,400 athletes will arrive in the Japanese capital for the Paralympics, which are due to begin August 25.
Since its inception in 1896, the modern Olympic Games have only been cancelled during wartime. In 1940, the Olympics were supposed to occur in Tokyo but were cancelled due to Japan’s aggressive war on China during World War II.
The final decision as to whether the Olympics can proceed this year remains contingent on discussions with the World Health Organization, Pound stressed.
“All indications are at this stage that it will be business as usual. So keep focused on your sport and be sure that the IOC is not going to send you into a pandemic situation.
It’s a big, big, big decision and you just can’t take it until you have reliable facts on which to base it.”
Pound conceded that postponing or moving such a massive event as the Olympics remains logistically impossible. So far, Japan has officially spent $12.6 billion to organize the sports competition—although a national audit board claims authorities have spent roughly twice the official amount.
“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. You can’t just say, we’ll do it in October.”