In another sign the 2020 Olympic Games may be postponed, the European, Americas and final world qualifying boxing tournaments for the Games were suspended on Monday after falling victim to the coronavirus outbreak sweeping the globe.
The latest announcement comes as France’s Olympic Games boss said the games should be postponed if the coronavirus pandemic was still raging in May.
“My feeling is that if we’re still in the crisis by the end of May I can’t see how the Games can happen (on time),” Denis Masseglia said in a telephone interview with Reuters on Tuesday (AEDT).
“If we are beyond the peak and the situation is getting better questions will arise about who qualifies, but we will find the least worst solution.”
The IOC will hold talks with heads of international sports organisations on Wednesday (AEDT) in response to COVID-19 and will also hold an unscheduled Executive Board teleconference to discuss the latest developments.
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Sports competitions ground to a halt across Europe and the US in recent days, and the Australian football codes have revised down their playing schedules, suspended competitions and, at this stage, given the go-ahead for AFL games in round one without crowds.
The IOC’s Boxing Task Force (BTF) is organising the events after the suspension last year of world body AIBA, acted as countries went into lockdown and sport ground to a halt.
The Americas and final world tournaments have yet to happen but the 10-day European event at London’s Copper Box, on the site of the 2012 Olympics, was already into its third day of competition.
Sixteen male boxers, flyweights and featherweights, still managed to secure their tickets to Tokyo before the shutdown came into force at the end of Monday’s evening session.
The BTF had already closed the doors to spectators after Sunday’s sessions.
Africa, Asia and Oceania have held their qualifying tournaments while the America’s one scheduled for Buenos Aires on March 26-April 3 was postponed last week. The final worlds were due in Paris on May 13-20.
The Asia and Oceania event was held in Amman, Jordan, this month after being moved from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the epicentre of the coronavirus epidemic.
The task force said it would provide details on the qualification process for the other regions at a later date.
“The BTF … took the decision to suspend the event today, amid increasing global travel restrictions and quarantine measures, in order to allow the participants from over 60 countries to adjust their travel plans and return home,” the IOC said in a statement.
“The BTF’s priority remains the qualification of athletes on the field of play, and it will inform all stakeholders as soon as more information is available,” it said.
Japan extremely cautious
Mr Masseglia said Japan had been tackling the spread of the virus perfectly.
“A week ago, I couldn’t even imagine the situation we’re in today (in Europe). When I came back on Saturday morning (from Japan) I came back confident, optimistic, telling myself the Japanese had handled the problem a little differently,” he said.
“They are in extreme precaution, there are water-based gels everywhere. Everybody wears a mask, they work almost normally.”
The Tokyo Olympics are scheduled for July 24 to August 9 with the Paralympic Games due to be held from August 25 to September 6.
The coronavirus pandemic has infected almost 182,000 people and killed 7115 worldwide, with the epicentre switching from China to Europe.