The International Olympic Committee insists it is going ahead with plans for the July Tokyo Games despite growing concern over the evolving coronavirus situation.
It comes as the vice president of Japan’s Olympic committee, Kozo Tashima, tested positive for the coronavirus after travelling to Britain, the Netherlands and the United States in the past month.
A statement issued via the Japan Football Association, which he also heads, confirmed the diagnosis on Wednesday morning (Australian time). It cast further doubt on whether the Olympics should go ahead.
In a statement on Wednesday morning (Australian time), the IOC confirmed it “remains fully committed to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, and with more than four months to go before the Games there is no need for any drastic decisions at this stage”.
“Any speculation at this moment would be counter-productive,” it said, less than an hour after European soccer body UEFA postponed its 2020 European Championship to 2021.
IOC President Thomas Bach encouraged all Olympic athletes to continue to prepare “as best they can” and said it was taking all necessary measures to keep them safe.
Its decision to proceed as planned comes less than a week after Olympics chief Yoshiro Mori said his team was not even tossing up whether the Games should be suspended or postponed.
He went so far as to say a board member had even apologised for suggesting there would be a delay to the Olympics because of the coronavirus.
But around the world, there is growing alarm over the virus’ spread and sporting codes are changing schedules and halting games.
Stopping large gatherings, such as crowds of sports fans, is considered vital to ‘flattening the curve’ and halting the spread of the illness.
Spain’s Olympic Committee president Alejandro Blanco said he would prefer the Tokyo Olympics to be postponed because his country’s athletes are unable to train due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The news that we get every day is uncomfortable for all countries in the world, but for us the most important thing is that our sportspeople cannot train and to celebrate the Games (as planned) would result in unequal conditions,” he said in a statement.
“We want the Olympics to take place, but with security. We’re an important country in the world and four months before the games, our athletes can’t arrive in equal conditions.”
Meanwhile, the French tennis federation has decided that it will be postponing the French Open tennis tournament until September 20-October 4 “in order to guarantee the health and safety of all those involved”, it said in a statement. It was initially scheduled to be played from May 24-June 7.
“While no one today can predict what the health situation will be like on May 18 (when qualifications were due to start), the lockdown measures in force make it impossible to prepare for it and therefore to organise it on the dates initially planned,” the federation said.
It is the first instance of a grand slam being affected by the virus that has spread around the world. The next major tennis championship currently on the calendar is Wimbledon, which is slated to start in late June in England.