IOC exploring scenarios for Tokyo Games, including postponement

23, Mar. 2020

GENEVA, Kyodo - The International Olympic Committee said Sunday it will study various operational plans for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics amid the coronavirus pandemic, including the possibility of postponing the events.

"To safeguard the health of all involved and to contribute to the containment of COVID-19, the Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee today announced that the IOC will step up its scenario-planning for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020," the international body said in a statement.

"These scenarios relate to modifying existing operational plans for the games to go ahead on 24 July 2020, and also for changes to the start date of the Games," the statement said, officially admitting the possibility of pushing back the events due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The IOC said it is "confident that it will have finalized these discussions within the next four weeks."

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"This step will allow better visibility of the rapidly changing development of the health situation around the world and in Japan. It will serve as the basis for the best decision in the interest of the athletes and everyone else involved," the IOC said.

"There is a dramatic increase in cases and new outbreaks of COVID-19 in different countries on different continents, the statement said, adding this led the Executive Board to conclude that the IOC needs to take the next step in its scenario-planning.

Japan was under growing pressure whether to go ahead with the Olympics and Paralympics this summer amid the spread of the coronavirus.

On the other hand, the IOC said in the statement, "The IOC Executive Board emphasized that a cancellation of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 would not solve any of the problems or help anybody. Therefore, cancellation is not on the agenda."

According to a statement released by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, the IOC is gathering information from national Olympic committees about the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on training for the Tokyo Games.

This year's Olympics were scheduled to be held from July 24 to Aug. 9, while the Paralympics had been slated for Aug. 25 to Sep. 6.

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The move comes after numerous bodies, including the IOC, the Tokyo Games organizing committee and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, had pledged the outbreak would not affect the games' schedule.

So far, more than 1,700 people in Japan have been infected with the pneumonia-causing virus, including nearly 700 who contracted it aboard a cruise ship.

Japan and the IOC had been in coordination with the World Health Organization in an attempt to keep preparations for the games on track, while organizers announced in February they had established a task force to deal with the outbreak.

The virus has already caused the cancellation or postponement of scores of sporting competitions over fear of spreading infection among the world's top athletes.

Organizers of the Tokyo Marathon, held on Mar. 1, restricted entry to elite athletes and prevented some 38,000 people from taking part as efforts were ramped up to bolster public safety.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who had initially been optimistic about Tokyo hosting the Olympics as planned, suggested earlier this month postponing the events for a year, saying that the move would be better than seeing "empty stadiums all over the place." (Kyodo)