Tokyo Olympics may have to be cancelled if COVID-19 doesn’t improve

The COVID-19 epidemic has already cancelled the 2020 Mobile World Congress, football matches and events globally as countries amp up efforts to isolate suspected patients. Now, if the situation doesn’t improve, this virus could also cancel one of the biggest sporting events of the year: the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

According to International Olympic Committee (IOC) senior member Dick Pound, there is an estimated 2-3 month window to decide the fate of this year’s Olympic Games which is set to be held from the 24th of July to the 9th of August 2020. And if by then, the IOC decides that the games cannot proceed in Tokyo, Pound says that it will probably be cancelled rather than postponed.

Why? Well, according to Pound in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, there are a myriad of reasons, but the main reason is down to the sheer scale of an event like the Olympics. There’s the logistics of the food, the security, the construction of the Olympic Village, Pound says. There are just too many moving parts for a postponement to be a feasible option.

“You can’t just say, ‘We’ll do it in October'”, he said. Pound also noted that moving it to later in the year would also cause a lot of problems with scheduling and broadcasting especially when you take all the countries, seasons, competitive seasons, and even television seasons into consideration.

Moving the Games to another city would also seem unlikely, according to Pound, because there aren’t many places in the world that could “think of gearing up facilities in that short time to put something on.”. In fact, London mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey suggested that they could hold the games in the British capital instead (London held the Olympics in 2012), but Tokyo Governor Koike Yuriko suggested that that offer was an attempt to use the virus for political purposes.

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2016’s Rio Olympic Games also faced a virus in the form of the mosquito-borne Zika Virus outbreak, but that event went ahead as scheduled. The only time the modern Olympic Games have been cancelled was during times of war.

That being said, the COVID-19 epidemic recently saw a spike in cases abroad with South Korea, Iran, and Japan reporting a surge of new cases. According to the Malaysian Ministry of Health, there are a total of 80,415 cases reported in 38 countries with 2,709 deaths as of 8am this morning. In Malaysia, there have been 22 cases, but of those, 20 have since recovered with no deaths.

Despite this, Dick Pound still encourages the some 11,000 participating athletes to continue training. According to Pound, all the indications at this stage are that things will proceed as usual. He said that the athletes should keep focused on the sport and believe in the fact that the IOC will not be sending them into a pandemic situation.