2020 Olympics Could Be 'Canceled' Due to Coronavirus Outbreak, Official Says

The 2020 Olympics in Tokyo reportedly may be in jeopardy due to the current coronavirus outbreak, according to International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound. Pound told the Associated Press on Tuesday that there is a two-to-three month window in which the fate of the upcoming games will be decided, meaning that a decision could be made as late as May.

"In and around that time, I'd say folks are going to have to ask: 'Is this under sufficient control that we can be confident about going to Tokyo or not?'" Pound said, adding that as the games get closer, "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."

If the IOC determines that the Olympics cannot be held in Tokyo, "you're probably looking at a cancellation," Pound said, encouraging athletes to continue training.

"As far as we all know, you're going to be in Tokyo," he said. "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."

Pound said that the IOC is relying on consultations with the World Health Organization for further decisions.

"You just don't postpone something on the size and scale of the Olympics," he pointed out. "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.'"

He added that moving the Olympics would not be easy "because there are few places in the world that could think of gearing up facilities in that short time to put something on" and that he is opposed to moving events to various cities because that would not "constitute an Olympic Games. You'd end up with a series of world championships." A several month delay is unlikely because of television programming schedules and a one-year delay is also unlikely due to the amount of money Japan spent to organize the games.

The coronavirus outbreak began in China two months ago and has infected over 80,000 people globally. Over 2,700 people have died, the majority of those cases coming from China. A quarantine and travel bans were quickly put into effect, but several countries including Italy, South Korea and Japan have since reported cases of the disease and health experts are now predicting that the disease could become a global pandemic.

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The Tokyo games are scheduled to begin on Friday, July 24 and run through Sunday, Aug. 9. The Paralympics are scheduled to follow beginning on Aug. 25. Around 11,000 athletes are expected for the Olympics and around 4,400 for the Paralympics.

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