Olympic official reiterates committment to Tokyo 2020 schedule amid coronavirus fears
The International Olympic Committee has moved to clarify comments that were made by one of its officials that the Tokyo Games could be postponed by reiterating that neither a cancellation nor a postponement is on the cards.
Haruyuki Takahashi of the executive board told the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday that the upcoming Summer Olympics likely would be postponed one or two years if they do not go on as scheduled due to concerns about the coronavirus outbreak.
Takahashi told the newspaper in an article published Tuesday that other options — such as playing the Games without spectators or canceling them entirely — would have substantial financial ramifications. Thus, a postponement would be the best option if the Games do not begin as scheduled.
“I don’t think the Games could be canceled. It’d be a delay,” Takahashi told The Wall Street Journal. “The International Olympic Committee would be in trouble if there’s a cancellation. American TV rights alone provide them with a huge amount.”
IOC organizing committee president Yoshiro Mori said last month that the Olympic Games — which begin July 24 — are expected to go on as scheduled.
And now the committee has clarified its position, telling Newsweek: "Mr. Takahashi apologised for the problems these comments caused for the Organizing Committee.
"As IOC President Bach stated the other day, neither the IOC nor the Organising Committee are considering postponing or cancelling the Tokyo 2020 Games, and we are proceeding with our preparations for a safe and secure Games opening on 24 July 2020 as planned."
Japan's Olympic minister Seiko Hashimoto, however, called the possibility of postponing the games "inconceivable" and ruled out the option.
"With the star athletes in the middle of preparations for this event which happens only once every four years, a cancellation or delay to the Tokyo games is inconceivable," she told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday.
"A delay is not under consideration."
In Japan, preseason baseball games have been played at empty stadiums. Officials of Nippon Professional Baseball announced Monday that the season, originally scheduled to open on March 20, will not get underway until some time in April at the earliest.
CNN reported Tuesday that the coronavirus has caused 26 deaths in the United States, with 732 known cases. Worldwide, more than 4,000 people have died and more 113,000 people have been infected.