Japan Correspondent, Nandy Khokan Kumar: If it proves too dangerous to hold the Olympics in Tokyo this summer because of the corona virus outbreak, organizers are more likely to cancel it altogether than to postpone or move it.
A senior member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said outright cancellation of the Games, rather than postponement or relocation, would be likely if the disease proved too dangerous for the event – which is scheduled to start on 24 July – to go ahead.
The viral outbreak that began in China two months ago has infected more than 80,000 people globally and killed over 2,700, the vast majority of them in China. But the virus has gained a foothold in South Korea, the Middle East and Europe, raising fears of a pandemic. Japan itself has reported four deaths.
The modern Olympics, which date to 1896, have been canceled only during wartime. The Olympics in 1940 were supposed to be in Tokyo but were called off because of Japan’s war with China and World War II. The Rio Games in Brazil went on as scheduled in 2016 despite the outbreak of the Zika virus.
Pound repeated the IOC’s stance — that it is relying on consultations with the World Health Organization, a United Nations body, to make any move. The future of the Tokyo Games is largely out of the IOC’s hands and depends on the course the virus takes. Another city also moving to seems unlikely “because there are few places in the world that could think of gearing up facilities in that short time to put something on.”
Pound also said he would not favor a scattering of Olympic events to other places around the world because that wouldn’t “constitute an Olympic Games. You’d end up with a series of world championships.” He also said it would be extremely difficult to spread around the various sports over a 17-day period with only a few months’ notice.
As for the possibility of postponement, he said: “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.'”
London mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey has suggested the British capital as an alternative. Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike suggested the offer was an attempt to use the virus for political purposes.
Holding the Olympics in Tokyo but postponing them by a few months would be unlikely to satisfy North American broadcasters, whose schedules are full in the fall with American pro football, college football, European soccer, basketball, baseball and ice hockey. Other world broadcasters also have jammed schedules.
He also cast doubt on the possibility of a one-year delay. Japan is officially spending $12.6 billion to organize the Olympics, although a national audit board says the country is spending twice that much.
“You have to ask if you can hold the bubble together for an extra year,” said Pound. “Then, of course, you have to fit all of this into the entire international sports schedule.”
Pound said the IOC has been building up an emergency fund, reported to be about $1 billion, for unforeseen circumstances to help the IOC and the international sports federations that depend on income from the IOC. About 73% of the IOC’s $5.7 billion income in a four-year Olympic cycle comes from broadcast rights.
“It’s not an insurable risk, and it’s not one that can be attributed to one or the other of the parties,” he said. “So everybody takes their lumps. There would be a lack of revenue on the Olympic movement side.”