The longest-serving member of the International Olympic Committee, Dick Pound has speculated that Tokyo 2020 could face 'cancellation' due to the fast-spreading Coronavirus.
Pound, in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, did not sound alarmist rather he spoke frankly about the risks facing the Olympics and indicated that a cancellation is more likely than a postponement should challenges created by the Coronavirus prove insurmountable.
Pound, a Canadian official, who has been on the IOC since 1978, estimated there is a three-month window, perhaps a two-month one, to decide the fate of the Tokyo Olympics, meaning a decision could be put off until late May.
With the Games scheduled to commence on 24th July and run until 9th August, Pound advised “in and around that time (May), 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?"'
With a number of other major sporting events either being postponed or cancelled, the status of the Tokyo Olympics has recently been the subject of much debate.
As the Games draw near, Pound added, "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".
As of now Tokyo’s Games are on with Pound highlighting that the IOC is reliant on the guidance of the World Health Organization (WHO). The Olympic Games have only previously been cancelled during wartime in 1916, 1940 and 1944.
Pound underlined that whatever advice the IOC is now getting, “it doesn’t call for cancellation or postponement of the Olympics. You just don’t postpone something on 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.”
Pound noted “It’s a big, big, big decision and you just can’t take it until you have reliable facts on which to base it.”
The viral outbreak that began in China two months ago has infected more than 80,000 people globally and killed over 2,700, the vast majority of them in China.
However, the virus has now gained a foothold in South Korea, the Middle East and Europe, raising fears of a pandemic.
In Japan itself, there are reports of four deaths with the government having confirmed over 850 Coronavirus infections, yet most of these originate from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which was docked in Yokohama. Japanese news agency Kyodo reports that the government had put in place a basic policy to allow its medical system to cope with any further spread of the Coronavirus, while maintaining that Japan has only seen small groups or “clusters” of infections.
Regardless, Pound is encouraging athletes to keep training. About 11,000 are expected for the Olympics and 4,400 are bound for the Paralympics, which open on 25th August.
Pound enthused "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."
Meanwhile, Australian Sports Minister Richard Colbeck has said the country's Olympians could be pulled out of this year's games if it means their health is at risk.
Minister Colbeck told News Corp "Australian athletes are ready to make their mark at the Tokyo Olympics, but it should not be at the risk of their health and wellbeing.
"We continue to work with the relevant authorities both here and overseas to ensure our athletes remain safe and protected as the response to the Coronavirus continues."
Pound also noted that moving to another city would be unlikely "because there are few places in the world that could think of gearing-up facilities in that short time to put something on."
Pound advised he would not favour a dispersal of events over various venues because that wouldn't "constitute an Olympic Games. You'd end up with a series of world championships" adding that it would also be very difficult to spread around all these sports in a 17-day period with only a few month's notice.
Regarding the financial impact of a cancellation, Pound pointed to the IOC’s “emergency fund” for such circumstances, which is reported to be around US$1bn and would come to the aid of International Federations (IFs), as well as the IOC itself, that are reliant on Olympic Games revenue.
Pound added “this would be what you normally call a force majeure. It’s not an insurable risk and it’s not one that can be attributed to one or the other of the parties. So everybody takes their lumps. There would be a lack of revenue on the Olympic Movement side.”
25th February 2020 - New research highlights impact of Coronavirus and bushfires on Australian business
21st February 2020 - Thailand Grand Prix to go ahead despite Coronavirus concerns
20th February 2020 - Tourism Authority of Thailand updates event and travel industry recommendations in wake of Coronavirus
18th February 2020 - IAAPA shares resources on Coronavirus outbreak
16th February 2020 - Singapore Tourism Board looks to boost confidence in wake of ongoing Coronavirus impact
15th February 2020 - GlobalData considers the impact of Coronavirus on South East Asian tourism
13th February 2020 - Coronavirus fears sees postponement of F1 Chinese Grand Prix
13th February 2020 - ATIC calls for government support to counter coronavirus impact on tourism industry
12th February 2020 - Coronavirus continues to impact China’s sports events
10th February 2020 - Tokyo Olympic organisers emphasise Games will go ahead despite coronavirus
8th February 2020 - IAAPA monitors coronavirus outbreak and cancels Meet IAAPA event in China
5th February 2020 - Tourism WA supports industry impacted by coronavirus
3rd February 2020 - Gold Coast tourism suffers $40 million dip due to Coronavirus and bushfires impact
1st February 2020 - Fitness First Singapore advises that claims of club closures due to Coronavirus are ‘bogus’
31st January 2020 - Coronavirus declared global health emergency by World Health Organization
29th January 2020 - Swim schools concerned about Coronavirus
28th January 2020 - Leading consultants suggest Coronavirus impact could deal significant blow to Australian economy
27th January 2020 - Coronavirus impacts Asian sporting events
26th January 2020 - Coronavirus fears sees closure of Hong Kong and Shanghai Disney resorts
24th January 2020 - Coronavirus sees cancellation of major events and closure of attractions in China
Asking a small favour
We hope that you value the news that we publish so while you're here can we ask for your support?
The news we publish at www.ausleisure.com.au is independent, credible (we hope) and free for you to access, with no pay walls and no annoying pop-up ads.
However, as an independent publisher, can we ask for you to support us by subscribing to the printed Australasian Leisure Management magazine - if you don't already do so.
Published bi-monthly since 1997, the printed Australasian Leisure Management differs from this website in that it publishes longer, in-depth and analytical features covering aquatics, attractions, entertainment, events, fitness, parks, recreation, sport, tourism and venues management.
Subscriptions cost just $90 a year.
Click here to subscribe.