Will games be can­celled due to the virus?

IOC mem­ber says there’s a 3-month win­dow to de­cide fate of Tokyo Games

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - FRONT PAGE - By Stephen Wade

TOKYO >> A se­nior mem­ber of the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee said Tues­day that if it proves too dan­ger­ous to hold the Olympics in Tokyo this sum­mer be­cause of the coronaviru­s out­break, or­ga­niz­ers are more likely to can­cel it al­to­gether than to post­pone or move it.

Dick Pound, a former Cana­dian swim­ming cham­pion who has been on the IOC since 1978, mak­ing him its long­est-serv­ing mem­ber, es­ti­mated there is a three­month win­dow — per­haps a twom­onth one — to de­cide the fate of the Tokyo Olympics, mean­ing a de­ci­sion could be put off un­til late May.

“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 said in an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with The As­so­ci­ated Press.

As the games draw near, he said, “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 the IOC de­cides the games can­not go for­ward as sched­uled in Tokyo, “you’re prob­a­bly look­ing at a can­cel­la­tion,” he said.

The vi­ral out­break that be­gan in China two months ago has in­fected more than 80,000 peo­ple glob­ally and killed over 2,700, the vast ma­jor­ity of them in China. But the virus has gained a foothold in South Korea, the Mid­dle East and Europe, rais­ing fears of a pan­demic. Ja­pan it­self has re­ported four deaths.

Pound en­cour­aged ath­letes to keep train­ing. About 11,000 are

ex­pected for the Olympics, which open July 24, and 4,400 are bound for the Paralympic­s, which open Aug. 25.

“As far as we all know, you’re go­ing to be in Tokyo,” Pound said. “All in­di­ca­tions are at this stage that it will be busi­ness as usual. So keep fo­cused on your sport and be sure that the IOC is not go­ing to send you into a pan­demic sit­u­a­tion.”

The mod­ern Olympics, which date to 1896, have been can­celed only dur­ing wartime. The Olympics in 1940 were sup­posed to be in Tokyo but were called off be­cause of Ja­pan’s war

with China and World War II. The Rio Games in Brazil went on as sched­uled in 2016 de­spite the out­break of the Zika virus.

Pound re­peated the IOC’s stance — that it is re­ly­ing on con­sul­ta­tions with the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion, a United Na­tions body, to make any move.

As for the pos­si­bil­ity of post­pone­ment, he said: “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 also seems un­likely “be­cause there are few places in the world that

could think of gear­ing up fa­cil­i­ties in that short time to put some­thing on.”

London may­oral can­di­date Shaun Bai­ley has sug­gested the Bri­tish cap­i­tal as an al­ter­na­tive. Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike sug­gested the of­fer was an at­tempt to use the virus for po­lit­i­cal pur­poses.

Pound said he would not fa­vor a scat­ter­ing of Olympic events to other places around the world be­cause that wouldn’t “con­sti­tute an Olympic Games. You’d end up with a se­ries of world cham­pi­onships.” He also said it would be ex­tremely dif­fi­cult to spread around the var­i­ous sports over a 17-day pe­riod with only a few months’ no­tice.

Hold­ing the Olympics in Tokyo but post­pon­ing them

by a few months would be un­likely to sat­isfy North Amer­i­can broad­cast­ers, whose sched­ules are full in the fall with Amer­i­can pro foot­ball, col­lege foot­ball, Euro­pean soc­cer, basketball, base­ball and ice hockey. Other world broad­cast­ers also have jammed sched­ules.

He also cast doubt on the pos­si­bil­ity of a oneyear de­lay. Ja­pan is of­fi­cially spend­ing $12.6 bil­lion to or­ga­nize the Olympics, al­though a na­tional au­dit board says the coun­try is spend­ing twice that much.

“You have to ask if you can hold the bub­ble to­gether for an ex­tra year,” Pound said. “Then, of course, you have to fit all of this into the en­tire in­ter­na­tional sports sched­ule.”


Two peo­ple wear masks as they visit the newly opened Ja­pan Olympic Mu­seum lo­cated near the New Na­tional Sta­dium on Sun­day in Tokyo.

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