President Donald Trump on Thursday suggested postponing the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo over growing fears of the coronavirus pandemic. The suggestion came as the president and Ireland's prime minister, Leo Varadkar, were answering questions about the global COVID-19 pandemic, with the president suggesting delaying the Olympics a full year.
"Maybe they postpone it for a year," Trump said. "Maybe that’s not possible. I guess it’s never happened with the Olympics."
"If you cancel it, do it a year later," he added. "Thats a better alternative rather than having it with no crowd and having empty stadiums all over the place."
Trump's comments came just a day after the World Health Organization (WHO) officially classified the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, stating that "WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction."
"We have therefore made the assessment that [COVID-19] can be characterized as a pandemic," it added in part. "…WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction."
As a result, numerous sporting events, as well as other gatherings, have been canceled, though the question of whether or not the Olympics will go on as planned has lingered for weeks. Speaking to the Associated Press in late February, International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound said that there was a chance the games would be "canceled" and that there was, at the time, a two-to-three month window in which the fate of the upcoming games would be decided.
However, International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams stated earlier this month that "the games are going ahead on the 24th of July, and we confidently expect to deliver them on that date."0comments
Speaking to reporters Thursday, those statements were echoed by Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, who claimed that "this is no change in plans to proceed with preparations," according to the Independent.
A final decision whether to proceed with the games as scheduled will be made by the IOC. A decision is expected to be announced by late May or early June.