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The 2020 Tokyo Olympics Could Be Cancelled If Coronavirus Threat Persists

A senior IOC member said that they cannot postpone something the size and scale of the Olympics.

Cover image via Time & Jae C. Hong/AP

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) — with each passing day — is beginning to look a lot more severe as it spreads further outside Asia.

The World Health Organisation, in fact, has now warned that countries outside China are "simply not ready" for a coronavirus pandemic.

According to Dr Bruce Aylward, head of the joint WHO-Chinese mission on the COVID-19 outbreak, the rest of the world needs to prepare immediately so they can respond rapidly when the novel coronavirus arrives.

"Think the virus is going to show up tomorrow. If you don't think that way, you're not going to be ready," the top WHO expert told reporters in Geneva yesterday, 25 February, reported Reuters.

Dr Aylward's warning came after the coronavirus death toll in Iran hit 16, the highest outside China where more than 2,700 patients have lost their lives after falling victim to the disease.

Although the coronavirus has reached outside Asia in parts of Europe and the Middle East, there has been a sharp drop in the number of deaths and fresh cases that have been reported in China.

Residents of Casalpusterlengo, an Italian town under lockdown over COVID-19, line up to enter a supermarket.

Image via Science Magazine

The outbreak has already affected sports events

Among the number of events, the 18th World Athletics Indoor Championships that were scheduled for next month in Nanjing, China, has now been postponed until March 2021.

The Chinese Grand Prix was scheduled for 19 April in Shanghai. It has now been postponed.

And if the COVID-19 outbreak is not controlled soon and it proves too dangerous for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, organisers are more likely to cancel it altogether than to postpone or move it

According to a senior member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), there is a three-month window to decide the fate of the Tokyo Olympics, scheduled to start on 24 July.

In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, IOC's Dick Pound said that while preparations for the Tokyo Olympics are currently "business as usual", in the three months people are going to have to ask if the outbreak is under sufficient control that "we can be confident about going to Tokyo or not?"

Pound is a former Canadian swimming champion who has been with IOC since 1978.

International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound.

Image via Politico via Brennan Linsley/AP

"You're probably looking at a cancellation"

Remarking on the possibility of postponement, the IOC member said that if the committee decides that the games cannot go forward as scheduled, "you're probably looking at a cancellation."

His reason being that they cannot postpone something that's the size and scale of the Olympics.

"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 was quoted as saying.

Image via Jae C. Hong/AP

He, however, encouraged athletes to keep training

Seeking to allay fears that the games might be scrapped, Pound advised the 11,000 Olympic and the 4,400 Paralympic athletes to continue with their training.

As far as we all know, you’re going to be in Tokyo.

"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," he said.

The new Tokyo Olympic Stadium.

Image via BBC

Meanwhile, Malaysia is the only country to have reached a halal cooperation deal with Tokyo for the 2020 Olympic Games:

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