Earlier this week, the IOC’s (International Olympic Committee’s) longest-serving member, Dick Pound, told the Associated Press that the Olympics have three months to wait out the coronavirus before cancelling the Games. Yesterday, the Tokyo 2020 organizers and members of the Japanese government responded to Pound’s statement, saying that cancellation is not an option they’re considering.
By Ben Snider-McGrath
For this year’s Tokyo Olympics to be canceled or postponed over the coronavirus outbreak, the world’s health would have to be at stake, International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound says https://t.co/e44SejsPCk pic.twitter.com/YghT8NMHbu
— Reuters (@Reuters) February 27, 2020
“Our basic thoughts are that we will go ahead with the Olympic and Paralympic Games as scheduled,” CEO of the Tokyo organizing committee, Toshiro Muto, said at a press conference on Wednesday. “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.”
More than 80,000 people have been infected by coronavirus, and 2,700 people have died from it. Only five of these deaths have occurred in Japan, but the risk is still considered high.
Pound is a former Canadian Olympic swimmer, and he has been a member of the IOC since 1978. It is important to note that Pound was not speaking on behalf of the IOC leaders, but expressing his opinion on the matter.
“You could certainly go to two months out if you had to,” he said. “By and large you’re looking at a cancellation.” Muto responded to this claim, saying that the time limit was not discussed prior to Pound’s comments.
“When we asked about this we received a response saying that is not the position of the IOC,” Muto said.
The Associated Press reported that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has asked that sports and cultural events set for the next two weeks be postponed or cancelled entirely.
“The next one to two weeks is extremely important for the prevention of the escalation of the infection,” Prime Minister Abe said. “We ask organizers to cancel, postpone or scale down the size of such events.”
Japanese PM Shinzo Abe urged for a two-week curb on sports events, amid concerns that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics could be canceled due to growing coronavirus fears https://t.co/Rwn5u18apj pic.twitter.com/6qIbDPizTw
— Reuters (@Reuters) February 26, 2020
This is not new. The World Indoor Track and Field Championships were to be held in China in March, but they have been postponed until 2021. Specifically in Japan, this weekend’s Tokyo Marathon will only feature elite athletes after the mass participation race was cancelled due to the risk of spreading coronavirus.
The New York Times reported today that Prime Minister Abe called for all schools nationwide to be shut down, effective Monday, and not to reopen until after the regularly-scheduled spring holidays (which end in April). This is yet another move to prevent the spread of the virus.