LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND – The International Olympic Committee said Tuesday it is confident this summer’s Tokyo Games will open in July as scheduled, amid concerns over possible disruptions caused by the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak.
IOC spokesman Mark Adams said that relocating the Olympics is not an option and that the games will take place as planned from July 24 to Aug. 9.
“We would prefer to stick to the advice from the experts … and we still see no reason to think other than that we will be going ahead,” Adams told a news conference in Lausanne, Switzerland, where the IOC’s executive board held a meeting.
“We’re not even worrying, thinking about that (relocation), because we’re planning to have the games on the 24th of July.”
While the spread of the virus has caused cancellations and postponements of sporting events, including Olympic qualifiers, the IOC has so far made no mention of making changes to the Olympic schedule.
“As you know, there’s not even an international travel ban, and still not a pandemic announced. All the advice we’re getting is that the games can and will go ahead,” Adams said.
Japan’s top government spokesman said the country will focus on delivering the Olympics on schedule.
“We will steadily proceed with our preparations while closely coordinating with the IOC and the organizing committee,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a regular news conference on Wednesday.
Walking back comments made on Tuesday by Olympic minister Seiko Hashimoto indicating that the Olympics could be rescheduled to later in the year and that a decision may need to be made by May, Tokyo 2020 organizing committee spokesman Masa Takaya said there is no deadline.
“We have been informed from the Olympic minister that she is absolutely on the same page and the games will go ahead as planned,” Takaya said.
The IOC’s executive board encouraged athletes “to prepare for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.” In a statement on Tuesday, it said “a joint task force had already been created in mid-February, involving the IOC, Tokyo 2020, the host city of Tokyo, the government of Japan and the World Health Organization.”
The board said that it had heard a report on measures taken so far to address the coronavirus situation and that the IOC will continue to follow advice from the WHO.
IOC President Thomas Bach said the executive board meeting would pave the way for “final decisions” about the games at an IOC session in June.
“We have to make some proposals for the session in Tokyo just preceding the Olympic Games,” Bach said.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a Tuesday news conference in Geneva on that he had spoken over the phone with Bach on concerns over the effects of the coronavirus on the quadrennial sporting event.
Tedros also said it is too early to draw a conclusion about the Olympics, adding that the organization will continue monitoring the situation.
The director-general added that Japan is taking all possible measures to prevent the spread of the virus and that he and Bach had agreed to work with the Japanese government on the matter.
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