International Olympics Committee member Dick Pound has estimated that they have about three months to make a decision on whether the Tokyo Olympic games will continue as planned. The threat of the quickly spreading coronavirus (COVID-19) has made the continuation of the games uncertain.
Pound is the longest serving member of the IOC and has been on the committee since 1978.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Pound spoke about the risks associated with the July 24 Olympics.
“You could certainly go to two months out if you had to,” said Pound, “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.”
“This is the new war and you have to face it. 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?”‘
There were 508 new cases of the virus reported in China on Tuesday which included 71 deaths. They reported that 68 of the deaths occurred in Wuhan, where the virus originated in December. CBC News reported that the total number of cases in China’s mainland has now come to 77,658 and there have been 2,663 recorded deaths. The second most cases have been reported in South Korea with 977, which includes 10 deaths.
The Middle East and Europe are now seeing cases of the illness pop up. Since Tuesday, there have been four reported deaths in Japan.
Pound noted that athletes should continue to train for the Olympics despite the talk of possible cancellation. There are approximately 11,000 athletes expected to participate in the Olympics and about 4,400 expected to participate in the Paralympics.
“As far as we all know, you’re going to be in Tokyo,” said Pound. “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.”
The Olympics have been called off in Tokyo before when in 1940 they were cancelled due to the war between Japan and China and World War II.
Pound reiterated the IOC’s stance on the issue stating that they will be working with World Health Organization consultants. As of right now the games are still a go.
“It’s a big, big, big decision, and you just can’t take it until you have reliable facts on which to base it,” said Pound.
“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 also noted that it seems unlikely that the Olympics would be moved to a different city.
“To move the place is difficult because there are few places in the world that could think of gearing up facilities in that short time to put something on.”
Japan claims to be spending about US$12.6 billion on organizing the Olympics while a national audit board has said that they are spending double that amount.
An emergency fund of approximately $1 billion has reportedly been started by the IOC.