The 2020 Tokyo Olympics Could be Cancelled Amid the Coronavirus Outbreak

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A senior member of the International Olympic Committee said Tuesday that if holding the event proves too dangerous because of the coronavirus outbreak, the organizers are more likely to cancel it altogether rather than rescheduling. Speaking to the Associated Press, Dick Pound, a former Olympic Canadian swimmer and senior member of the IOC, estimates there is a three-month window that could decide the fate of the 2020 Olympics. 

“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 interview with The Associated Press. As the games draw closer, Pound mentions too many pieces of the puzzle need to fall into place for it to be successful. If the IOC decides it is not safe to proceed in Tokyo, Pound says it is likely there will be a cancellation.

The modern Olympics, which stretch back to 1896, have only been cancelled during wartime. The last time it was cancelled was in 1940, when it was to be hosted in Tokyo, but organizers cancelled as Japan was engaged in war with China and World War II was beginning. 

Pound has encouraged athletes to continue to train, as 11,000 are expected to compete at the 2020 Olympics. He noted residual “As far as we all know, you’re going to be in Tokyo. 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 coronavirus outbreak, now called COVID-19, originated in China in late December, with the majority of cases concentrated there. However, in the past few weeks, it has quickly spread to more than 15 countries, infecting more than 3,000 and causing at least 56 deaths. So far, the number of cases in the U.S. has been limited to 57, with that number including the Americans who were repatriated from the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship. 

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