Dick Pound, the Canadian lawyer who’s also the longest-serving member of the IOC (International Olympic Committee), says the Olympic Games have a three-month window to decide the fate of the upcoming Tokyo event, which are being threatened by coronavirus (COVID-19).
Pound told the Associated Press on Tuesday that organizers could wait until two to three months out from the Games to make a decision. “You could certainly go to two months out if you had to,” Pound said, which would mean putting off a decision until late May and hoping the virus is under control by then. “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.” Pound also added that in the event the Games couldn’t go ahead, organizers would be looking at cancellation.
As of Tuesday morning, the death toll from the virus has hit 2,663 in China. 170 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Japan, the fifth highest number of cases after China, South Korea the Diamond Princess cruise, and Italy. However, Pound wants athletes to continue to train as usual.
“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.”
Postponing isn’t an option
Events such as the Tour of Hainan have been cancelled, and others, such as Milan-San Remo are at risk. Some, such as the Taipei Cycle show, have been postponed. Due to the scale of the Olympics, postponing won’t be an option for the upcoming Games. Pound explains, “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.”
Since 1896, the Olympics have only been cancelled due to war, and faced boycotts in Montreal, Los Angeles and Moscow.
The takeaway message
As of right now, athletes and governing bodies are to assume the Games will go off as planned. Hopefully the virus will subside and this summer’s marquee sporting event will continue. In the event that the Olympics can’t be held for safety reasons, it’s extremely unlikely that the event would be moved or postponed and Tokyo would be facing cancellation.
This article first appeared in Canadian Running Magazine