Tokyo – Tokyo Olympic organizers and the Japanese government went on the offensive after a senior IOC member said the 2020 Games were being threatened by the spread of a viral outbreak, with their fate probably decided in the next three months.
Tokyo organizing committee CEO Toshiro Muto abruptly called a news conference to address comments from former International Olympic Committee vice president Dick Pound in an interview with The Associated Press.
“Our basic thoughts are that we will go ahead with the Olympic and Paralympic Games as scheduled,” Muto said, speaking in Japanese. “For the time being, the situation of the corona virus infection is, admittedly, difficult to predict, but we will take measures such that we’ll have a safe Olympic and Paralympic Games.”
Pound has been a member of the IOC since 1978, serving two terms as vice president, and was the founding president of the World Anti-Doping Agency. He has served 13 years longer than IOC president Thomas Bach. He represented Canada as swimmer at the Olympics.
“You could certainly go to two months out if you had to,” said Pound. “By and large you’re looking at a cancellation. This is the new war, and you have to face it. In and around there, folks are going to have to say: “Is this under sufficient control that we can be confident of going to Tokyo or not?”
The IOC has repeatedly said the Tokyo Games will go ahead and has said it is following the advice of the World Health Organization, a United Nations agency.
Japanese virologist Dr. Hitoshi Oshitani, who formerly worked for the WHO, said last week he could not forecast what the situation would be in five months.
The Olympics open on July 24 with 11,000 athletes, followed by the Paralympics on Aug. 25 with 4,400 athletes.
At a government task force meeting on the outbreak, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, “The next one-to-two weeks is extremely important for the prevention of an escalation of the infection. We ask organizers to cancel, postpone or scale down the size of such events.”
The three-month window also goes for sponsors and television broadcasters who need to firm up planning. Not to mention travelers, athletes and fans with 7.8 million tickets available for the Olympics and 2.3 million for the Paralympics.
As the games draw near, Pound 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 their building their studios.” AFP