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.”