IOC Member: Tokyo 2020 Hosts Have until May to Cancel Olympics over Coronavirus

Dick Pound, a former Canadian Olympic swimmer and a member of the International Olympic Committee since 1978, told The Associated Press that the 2020 Olympics are more likely to be canceled than postponed (or moved) in the case the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak does not get under control.

Pound said that there is likely a two- or three-month window to make a decision, which means the IOC could have until May to take action.

“In and around that time, 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?’” Pound told the AP.

“A lot of things have to start happening [as the Games get closer]. 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.”

Because of the necessary prep for the event, he’d expect a full cancellation, Pound said; he also noted that it would be hard for media worldwide to cover the event if it got pushed back to the fall. Pound added that it’s unlikely individual sports could move to new locations around the world, or that Japan could handle a one-year delay with the tens of billions of dollars it has already put into organizing.

 “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 cautioned athletes to proceed as planned, and not worry about competing in a dangerous situation.

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

There have been approximately 80,149 confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally, resulting in 2,699 deaths. Tuesday morning, the CDC warned that a spread to the United States could cause “significant disruption.”

“It’s not so much of a question of if this will happen anymore but rather more of a question of exactly when this will happen,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters. “We are asking the American public to prepare for the expectation that this might be bad.”

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TJ Hutter

What do you think the odds are that it gets cancelled?

At this point I’d say pretty low. When looking at the SARS timeline, the first cases broke in November of 2002, and by July of 2003 all of the travel alerts were gone. While no 2 viruses or outbreaks are identical, scientists and doctors are better-equipped to deal with COVID-19 than they were with SARS.

Based on that (and not being a virologist or a public health expert), I think that the spread will probably be under control before July.


I hope 2017 was a typo because 15 years is not a promising timeline even if we’re a little better prepared now

Yikes, 2003*. I don’t even know how I got from “03” to “17” on the keyboard.


You were obviously experiencing fever hallucinations, caused by a Corona virus infection. Call the CDC! 😉


There are also at least 10x more cases of COVID-19 in the first 2 months than we had in the duration of SARS. This virus is less deadly but could have a much more severe global impact. It’s hard to know what will happen right now.


the way Trump handles it, we really have to hope for a miracle to avoid a giant outbreak


This is my biggest fear as a viewer. I already requested a few days off this summer strictly to be available to watch Tokyo 2020 swimming.


Yes, my whole year is planned around sitting on the couch for 2 weeks in July/August!


Said by every age-group coach in history


You could still have the Olympic trials on Omaha. And if it gets cancelled maybe keep the Omaha pool longer and host a super world championship meet!


Even better… Invite the Olympic teams of every country in the world for a short course yards meet. We’re finally gonna see Peaty race yards.


I suppose it would have to be organised by FINA since, according to the “Trident of Traitors” (1487), FINA will not acknowledge the results or records of any meet not approved by FINA at least 6 months in advance.

About Torrey Hart

Torrey Hart

Torrey is from Oakland, CA, and majored in media studies and American studies at Claremont McKenna College, where she swam distance freestyle for the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps team. Outside of SwimSwam, she has bylines at Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, SB Nation, and The Student Life newspaper.

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