The longest-serving member of the International Olympic Committee says the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo in July could be canceled if the coronavirus outbreak shows no sign of dissipating.
Former Canadian swimming champion Dick Pound, who has been on the IOC since 1978, says organizers have a three-month window – or less – to make a decision about the fate of the Games.
“In and around that time (May), 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?’” he said in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press. “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.”
If it comes to that, if the virus is still as potent in the spring, Pound said the IOC and organizers would likely have no choice but to cancel outright.
Postponing the Games to a date other than the July 24 start or moving the event to another city – even a city that has hosted the magnitude of something like the Olympics before – is likely out of the question.
“You just don’t postpone something on the size and scale of the Olympics,” he said. “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.’”
And moving to another city 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,” he said.
If the IOC decides the Games cannot go forward as scheduled in Tokyo, “you’re probably looking at a cancellation,” he added.
Japan, awarded the 2020 Games back in 2014, is officially spending $12.6 billion on the Olympics.
The coronavirus outbreak that began in China two months ago has infected more than 80,000 people and killed more than 2,700. Most of the cases and the deaths have been in China, but the virus has spread globally sparking fears of a pandemic.
An Olympics has not been canceled in 76 years. The only times organizers have called off the Games were in 1916 due to World War I and in 1940 and ’44 due to World War II.
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