The 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games could be cancelled if coronavirus continues to spread after new cases in Japan were confirmed, according to Dick Pound, a senior member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Pound told the Associated Press news agency that the Games would need to be cancelled, rather than postponed or relocated, if the outbreak was deemed too risky for the event.
Pound added that there would be two-to-three month window prior to the event in which a decision would need to be made. The IOC is relying on consultations with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to make any move.
He told the 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?’
“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.
“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.’”
Pound said moving to another city would be unrealistic as there are few places in the world that would be able to handle gearing up facilities in such a short time period.
Japanese sports events have already been called off due to the coronavirus, with the J-League, the top-flight of football competition in the country, called off until next month. In addition, this weekend’s Tokyo Marathon has turned away 38,000 entrants and is opting to feature only a few hundred elite athletes.
Earlier this month, organisers assured ticket holders that the event would go ahead as planned despite “serious concerns” over the spread of coronavirus. Chief executive of the Games Toshiro Muto said organisers have set up a task force to combat the virus and promised that the Games would not be derailed stating “the Olympics will go ahead as planned.”
However, this preceded reports of three new coronavirus cases that were confirmed on Tuesday among users of the same gym in Chiba. The city, just north of Tokyo, is scheduled to host Olympic taekwondo, fencing, wrestling and surfing, as well as four Paralympic events. Japan has reported four deaths from the virus so far.
International sales for Tokyo 2020 tickets are scheduled to begin in mid-May, for the event which kicks off on July 24. Tickets until now have only been sold to Japanese residents, with almost 4.5 million already allocated in the first two phases of the domestic ticket lottery. Organisers have not disclosed the total amount of tickets available, estimated to be over nine million.