News & Politics

IOC Worries Coronavirus May Force It to Cancel Tokyo Olympics. 'You Just Don’t Postpone ... the Olympics'

Michael Phelps carries the flag of the United States during the opening ceremony for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Aug. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

The International Olympic Committee is beginning to think through the very real possibility that the coronavirus could force it to cancel the games this year.

In an exclusive interview, Dick Pound, a senior member of the IOC and former Olympian, told the AP that they’ll make a final determination in late May as to whether the Tokyo, Japan, games will go on.

“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?’ …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.”

Pound, himself a champion swimmer on the 1978 Canadian Olympic team, told athletes to keep training:

“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.”

Eleven thousand athletes are expected for the Olympics when they begin on July 24.

Pound told The AP that you don’t simply “postpone” the Olympic games, because there are too many moving parts:

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.’”

The suggestion that the Tokyo games could remotely be canceled is causing upset. A candidate for mayor of London says his city will step up if the games in Tokyo need to be canceled:

Japan’s leadership said the offer by the candidate was merely a political stunt.

Pound said moving to another city was unlikely because “there are few places in the world that could think of gearing up facilities in that short time to put something on.”

Japan has shelled out more than $12.5 billion to put on the games.

The Olympics have been canceled only due to war, though there have been several boycotts.

We’ll know soon enough at the end of May whether there will be a 2020 Olympic games.