Two people wear masks when they visit the newly opened Japanese Olympic Museum near the New National Stadium on Sunday, March 23. February 2020, visit. In Tokyo (AP Photo / Jae C. Hong)
TOKYO – A senior member of the International Olympic Committee said Tuesday that if the Corona virus outbreak proves too dangerous to hold the Tokyo Olympics this summer, the organizers are more likely to cancel them entirely, than to postpone or postpone them.
Dick Pound, a former Canadian swimming master who has been with the IOC since 1978 and who has made him the longest serving member, estimates that there is a three-month – maybe a two-month – window to decide the fate of the Tokyo Olympics, which means that a decision could be postponed until the end of May.
"At and around this time, I would say people have to ask: & # 39; Is this under sufficient control so that we can be sure of going to Tokyo or not? & # 39;" he said in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press.
As the games drew closer, he said: “Many things have to happen. You need to start improving your security, your food, the Olympic Village and the hotels. The media people will build their studios there. "
If the IOC decides that the games cannot continue in Tokyo as planned, "you will likely see a cancellation," he said.
The virus outbreak that began two months ago in China has infected more than 80,000 people worldwide and killed over 2,700 people, the vast majority of them in China. But the virus has gained a foothold in South Korea, the Middle East and Europe, raising fear of a pandemic. Japan itself has reported four deaths.
Pfund encouraged athletes to continue training. Around 11,000 are expected for the Olympic Games, which will open on July 24, and 4,400 are expected for the Paralympics, which will open on August 25.
"As far as we all know, you will be in Tokyo," said Pound. “All signs indicate that things will continue as usual. So keep your focus on your sport and make sure the IOC doesn't put you in a pandemic situation. "
The modern Olympic Games of 1896 were only canceled during the war. The 1940 Olympics were scheduled to take place in Tokyo, but were canceled due to Japan's war against China and World War II. The Rio Games in Brazil continued as planned in 2016 despite the outbreak of the Zika virus.
Pound reiterated the IOC's stance that it relies on consultations with the World Health Organization, a United Nations body, to take action.
Regarding the possibility of a move, he said, "You just don't move anything in terms of the size and scale of the Olympics. There are so many moving parts, so many countries and different seasons, competition times and TV seasons. You can don't just say, "We'll do it in October."
Pound said moving to another city is also unlikely, "because there are few places in the world that could think of setting up facilities to invest in this short amount of time."
London mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey proposed the British capital as an alternative. Yuriko Koike, governor of Tokyo, suggested the offer was an attempt to use the virus for political purposes.
Pound said he would not prefer spreading Olympic events to other locations around the world, as this would not be an “Olympic Games”. You will end up with a number of world championships. "He also said that it was extremely difficult to spread out the various sports within a period of just a few months over a period of 17 days.
To hold the Tokyo Olympics, but to postpone them for a few months, should not please North American broadcasters, whose dates in the fall are packed with American professional football, college football, European football, basketball, baseball and ice hockey. Other world channels have also blocked traffic jams.
"It would be difficult to get the kind of blanket coverage people expect at the Olympics," said Pound.
He also doubted the possibility of a one-year delay. Japan officially spends $ 12.6 billion on organizing the Olympics, though a national audit committee says the country spends twice as much.
"You have to ask if you can hold the bladder together for an additional year," said Pound. "Then of course you have to incorporate that into the entire international sports plan."
Pfund said the IOC had set up an emergency fund of around $ 1 billion in unforeseen circumstances to help the IOC and international sports associations depend on the IOC's revenue. Approximately 73% of the IOC's $ 5.7 billion income in a four-year Olympic cycle comes from broadcasting rights.
"It is not an insurable risk and it is not one that can be attributed to one party or another," he said. "So everyone takes their lumps. There would be a lack of revenue on the side of the Olympic movement. "
Pound said the future of the Tokyo Games is largely outside the hands of the IOC and depends on the course of the virus.
"If it's going to be something like Spanish flu," said Pound, referring to the deadly pandemic at the beginning of the 20th century that killed millions. "With this deadly number, everyone has to take their medication."
More information on the new type of corona virus can be found here.
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