By Peter Brennan
A senior member of the International Olympic Committee said yesterday that organizers for this summer’s games in Tokyo have about three months to decide whether the growing global coronavirus outbreak will force a cancellation.
Dick Pound, a former Canadian swimming champion who has served on the IOC since 1978, told the Associated Press that, should organizers deem the outbreak too serious for the Olympics to go on as planned, an outright cancellation of the games would be more likely than a postponement.
Pound’s estimate of a three-month window would place the timeline for a decision around May, at which point he said preparations for the games ramp up.
“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,” Pound explained. “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?’” he told AP.
The coronavirus outbreak, which began late last year, has sickened more than 80,000 people worldwide and killed over 2,700, with the bulk of cases originating in China. The outbreak has also flared up in places like South Korea, the Middle East and Europe. Earlier yesterday, the CDC called a U.S. outbreak of the disease inevitable.
Pound reiterated that the Tokyo organizing body was consulting with the World Health Organization to decide whether the games, which are scheduled to kick off at the end of July, should continue.
He also cast doubt on the prospect of moving the games to a new location, potentially one further from the outbreak’s epicenter in Wuhan, China, citing the logistics of pulling off such a feat.
“You’re probably looking at a cancellation” if the committee decides the Tokyo event cannot go on as scheduled, he said.
“You just don’t postpone something on the size and scale of the Olympics,” Pound 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.’”