Coronavirus May Wind Up Canceling The 2020 Summer Olympics In Tokyo, Officials Fear

Moving or postponing the Games is off the table.

a person wears a mask in downtown tokyo
Tomohiro Ohsumi / Getty Images

Moving or postponing the Games is off the table.

The coronavirus may wind up causing officials in Tokyo to cancel the 2020 Summer Olympics rather than reschedule the event or move it to another city, The Associated Press reports.

For now, the Games of the XXXII Olympiad are scheduled for July 24 through August 22 in the Japanese capital city. However, International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Dick Pound says that Olympic officials have about three months — no later than until the end of May — to decide whether or not to proceed with the Games.

“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?'” he said.

Pound noted that the coming months will see massive preparations in and around the city to get everything up and running for the summer event, and that means bringing people from outside the country into town — people such as builders, media personnel, and food-service workers. And those people will be coming to a densely-populated Asian city that is dealing with the highly-contagious, deadly disease that is poised to become a worldwide pandemic.

If the IOC does decide that Tokyo can’t host the games, then the 2020 Summer Olympics will be over before they begin. Moving them to another city, or to another date, is not an option at this time, Pound suggests.

downtown tokyo
  sofi5t / Pixabay

Still, Pound cautions that he is not encouraging athletes to quit training and that for now, he expects the Games to happen.

“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.

If Tokyo does cancel the Olympics, it would first time the Olympics were canceled outside of a war. The 1940 Games were to be held in Tokyo but were canceled due to Japan’s war with China at the time.

A health scare has coincided with an Olympiad before: in 2016, fears of the Zika virus raised concerns about the Olympic Games scheduled for that summer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. However, the Games went ahead as planned.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus has long since escaped China, where it began, and has moved on to Asia and the rest of the world. As of this writing, 80,0000 people across the globe have contracted the virus, and an estimated 2,700 have died of it, including 10 in Italy in the past few days.