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OLYMPIC GAMES

IOC insists coronavirus will not change Tokyo Olympics timetable

The International Olympic Committee says the spread of the coronavirus will not derail its plans to stage the Tokyo Olympics on time.
The International Olympic Committee says the spread of the coronavirus will not derail its plans to stage the Tokyo Olympics on time. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
3 min

The International Olympic Committee on Tuesday maintained a business-as-usual stance for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics despite the rising numbers of deaths and infections worldwide from the coronavirus.

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IOC president Thomas Bach said there were no plans to alter the schedule for the event in Japan which is scheduled between 24 July and 9 August.

"We are preparing for a successful Olympic Games, Tokyo 2020," said Bach at the opening of IOC's executive board meeting in the Swiss city of Lausanne.

A plethora of sporting events around the world have either been cancelled or postponed in the wake of the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

More than 3,100 people have died and nearly 100,000 have been infected in more than 60 countries.

Countries

The vast majority of cases have arisen in China. But South Korea, Italy, Iran and France have emerged as the countries with the most cases outside the epicentre.

The virus has infected at least 230 people in Japan and been linked to five deaths.

Japan's Olympics minister, Seiko Hashimoto, said on Tuesday the government and Tokyo organisers were doing their best to ensure a prompt start to the games.

But with fears increasing over the viability of staging the event in the teeth of a global health crisis, she raised the prospect of a postponement until later in 2020.

Delay

"It says in Article 66 that the IOC holds the right to cancel the Games by deactivating the contract ... If you look further inside, it only states 'in case the Games will not be held in 2020'," Hashimoto told parliament.

"This could be interpreted as postponement is possible if it is within 2020."

There have been only three cancellations since the inception of the Olympics in 1896 - during the first world war in 1916 and in 1940 and 1944 during the second world war.

"The IOC's executive board appreciates and supports the measures being taken, which constitute an important part of Tokyo's plans to host safe and secure games," said an IOC spokesperson.

"The IOC will continue to follow the advice of the World Health Organisation. All stakeholders will continue to work closely together to address the challenges of the coronavirus," the spokesperson added.

Japan's prime minister, Shinzo Abe, stepped up measures to contain the virus, urging schools to close for several weeks and calling on organisers of large events to consider cancelling or delaying them.

Football matches and music concerts have been disrupted and sumo's spring tournament will be held behind closed doors.

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