The Tokyo Olympics could be cancelled if it proves too dangerous to hold the event because of the global outbreak of coronavirus.
Canadian official Dick Pound, an International Olympic Committee member since 1978, estimates there is a three-month window – or even less, maybe just two months – to decide the fate of the Tokyo Games.
That window means a final decision on the fate of the sporting extravaganza can be delayed until late May – although it will only get more complicated as the opening day nears.
“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?’,” Mr Pound said.
The decision will be complicated as the games’ opening date nears, because “a lot of things have to start happening”, he said.
“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,” he said.
If the IOC decides the games cannot go forward as scheduled in Tokyo, then a postponement is unlikely.
“You’re probably looking at a cancellation,” Mr Pound said.
The viral outbreak that began in China two months ago has infected more than 80,000 people globally and killed more than 2700, the vast majority of them in China.
But in recent days the virus has gained a foothold in South Korea, the Middle East and Europe, raising fears of a pandemic. Japan has reported four deaths.
Mr Pound encouraged athletes to keep training. About 11,000 are expected for the Olympics, which open on July 24. There are a further 4400 bound for the Paralympics, which open August 25.
“As far as we all know, you’re going to be in Tokyo,” Mr Pound said.
“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.”
But 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.'”
Mr Pound added the future of the Tokyo Games was largely out of the IOC’s hands and depended on the course the virus outbreak takes.
Australian Olympic Committee CEO Matt Carroll said advice and updates were being received from both the IOC and the Tokyo Olympics organising committee.
He said the AOC was also monitoring training and preparation schedules of all Aussie athletes intending to participate in the games.
“Our foremost role is to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of Australian athletes,” he told Sunrise.
“We’re receiving advice from them (the IOC and the Tokyo Games organising committee), and also great advice from the federal government.
“The games are progressing and proceeding. There’s no change to the preparation. There’s no change to the dates.”