Yesterday (11 March), the World Health Organisation labelled the new coronavirus outbreak a pandemic and it implied that the severity of the illness was because of “alarming levels of inaction”.
With the number of cases across the globe rising above 124,000 with 4,500 deaths, it has been reported that the outbreak hotspots have moved from China to other countries like Italy, Iran, and Spain.
Since it’s unlikely for the outbreak to slow down its course before the Tokyo Olympics – that is scheduled to commence in July 2020 – many wondered what will happen to such a pivotal event that is only held once in four years.
Seiko Hashimoto, the appointed Minister for Tokyo Olympics, mentioned that it is “inconceivable” to postpone to 2020 Games, according to The Star.
“From the viewpoint of athletes who are the main protagonists in the Tokyo Games, as they are making adjustments and preparations for this once-in-four-years event… it is inconceivable to cancel or postpone,” said Ms Hashimoto.
Apparently, before Ms Hashimoto made this comment, Haruyuki Takahashi, a member of the organising committee’s executive board, told the press that delaying the games for one to two years would be the “most feasible” option if the games cannot be held this summer.
In order to clarify Mr Takahashi’s statement, Ms Hashimoto stated that it will be up to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to decide. Understanding that the reported number of cases could affect the outcome of the games, she implied that the Japanese government is responsible for providing accurate information.
“We think it is important that the government gives correct information so that the IOC makes an appropriate decision,” noted Ms Hashimoto.
Mr Takahashi had told the Wall Street Journal that the board had not discussed the impact of the coronavirus since their last meeting was held earlier in December – before the outbreak of Covid-19. At the moment, the organisers mentioned that the Tokyo Olympics will not be cancelled or postponed, as reported by CNA.
However, the sponsors are increasingly nervous because they have spent billions of dollars on the games that haven’t even begun. They’re extremely worried about how the coronavirus will impact the event they invested in.
Mr Takahashi also explained that by cancelling the Games or commencing without spectators would pose incredible financial damage. While postponing the Games by pushing it back for less than a year will clash with other major professional sports events.
“We need to start preparing for any possibility. If the Games can’t be held in the summer, a delay of one or two years would be most feasible,” he remarked.