Covid-19 has now spread to more than 60 countries according to the Associated Press, and has put the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in a bind. So far, the virus has brought about more than 3,000 deaths, mostly in China. The Olympics were originally set for July 24, and the International Olympic Committee did say that there was a possibility that the event could be cancelled altogether.
In a more recent interview, however, President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach has said that they are completely committed to pushing through with having the opening ceremony in Tokyo on July 24. He refused to comment on any potential postponement or cancellation of the event. “I’m not ready to add fuel to the flames of speculation there in any way,” he said.
Dick Pound, a senior member of the IOC, said that a decision would not be reached until the end of May, but that there were constant talks being held with the World Health Organisation.
Leading up to the Olympics, there are still 18 test events remaining, wherein organisers will be road testing logistics and venues. In the next few weeks, there will be paralympic wheelchair rugby on March 12 to 15, and gymnastics on April 4 to 6. They will be checking if non-Japanese athletes will compete at the test events.
Olympic qualifying events in other countries, on the other hand, have already been postponed or moved. The Olympic qualifying event in Taiwan for baseball was moved from April to June for the health and safety of the players, staff, and spectators. The Olympic qualifiers in China have already been moved elsewhere, such as Qatar, Croatia, and Serbia, where the athletes’ safety can be assured.
Tokyo 2020’s chief executive officer Toshiro Muto will be holding a teleconference this Wednesday with the 14-member IOC executive board in Switzerland to further discuss the matter. Plenty will need to be considered for the Olympics, including the sponsors, athletes, flights, accommodations, tickets, broadcast schedules, and catering. It was previously stated that Tokyo is spending US$12.6 billion (S$17.5 billion) to organise the Olympics, but a national audit board claims it could be even more than that.
The torch relay may face crowd limits, as well, and people will not be allowed to upload any videos of the event on social media. The organising committee explains that uploading videos would infringe on the rights of the broadcasters and violate the rules of the IOC.
Other sporting events in Japan have also seen changes. Pre-season baseball games in Japan are currently being held in empty stadiums, for one. Additionally, the soccer’s J-League has already suspended play, while a big sumo event is being held without spectators. The training for 80,000 unpaid volunteers has also been postponed. Schools are being closed for more than a month in an effort to halt the spread of Covid-19, too.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has also announced a 270 billion yen (S$3.48 million) emergency economic aid package during the weekend, stating that Japan is at a critical juncture to find out if they can keep the virus outbreak under control before the Olympics.