LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND (AFP) – International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach insisted that the nightmare scenario of either cancelling or postponing the Tokyo Olympics was not discussed at a key meeting on Wednesday (March 4) despite the global spread of the deadly coronavirus.
“Neither the word cancellation nor postponement was mentioned today during the Executive Board meeting,” Bach told reporters.
“I will not add fuel to the flames of speculation. Our statement from yesterday is very clear – we are fully committed to the success of the Tokyo Games.”
The Olympics take place from July 24-Aug 9.
However, many sporting events around the world have either been cancelled or postponed in the wake of the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
Around 3,200 people have died and over 90,000 have been infected in more than 60 countries worldwide.
The vast majority of cases are in China, but South Korea, Italy and Iran have emerged as the countries with the most cases outside the epicentre.
The virus has also infected at least 230 people across Japan and been linked to five deaths.
Bach said that a working group had been created made up of the IOC, Tokyo 2020 organisers, the city of Tokyo, the Japanese government and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“We have this joint working group which holds regular meetings. We examine every question which may arise but we do not speculate on possible future developments,” added Bach.
Pressed on what allowed him to display such confidence in holding the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Bach said that the IOC relied on information from a wide range of experts.
However, when questioned over who would make the final decision over a possible cancellation or postponement of the Games, Bach refused to speculate.
‘ISSUE NOT ON TABLE’
“I don’t want to give legal advice,” said Bach a former Olympic fencer-turned-lawyer.
“The issue is not on the table and has not been considered.”
The Olympic Games has never been cancelled in peace time.
There were Cold War boycotts of Moscow in 1980 and Los Angeles in 1984 while the Zika virus put a cloud over the 2016 Rio Games with many competitors opting to give Brazil a miss.
So far, a number of Olympic qualifying tournaments have been postponed or reprogrammed to other venues.
Furthermore, around 15 test events are still to be staged in Japan before the Tokyo Games in such sports as swimming, cycling, gymnastics and sailing.
“We are facing challenges regarding the qualifications,” admitted Bach.
“But for athletes who cannot compete because of the coronavirus, we will look for a just solution with the international federations.
“This could consist of increasing the (qualification) quotas for a limited number of athletes who, according to their federations, would have qualified had they participated in the qualifying events.”
Elsewhere, the IOC Executive Board also decided on Wednesday to emphasise a commitment to gender equality by deciding that each national delegation in Tokyo should have “at least one female and one male athlete”.
Also, it was decided that during the opening ceremony, a man and a woman – against a single standard-bearer until now – will be able to carry the flag of their national committee together.