Could Coronavirus Kill 2020 Olympics?

A senior member of the International Olympic Committee shot to the Top 10 in trending tweets Tuesday when he said the possibility exists that Tokyo 2020 could be cancelled because of the coronavirus.

Dick Pound
Dick Pound Photo Credit: Dr. Steven Ungerleider (Wikipedia/Creative Commons)

Officials have a three-month window, at best, and possibly only until the end of April to decide whether to continue or cancel this year’s games, which begin in late July, Dick Pound said.

There is no backup plan, Pound said: Postponing or moving the games to another country likely wouldn’t happen, he said in an interview with the Associated Press.

There are too many countries, competitive seasons and scheduled television blocks, Pound said.

“There are few places in the world that could think of gearing up facilities in that short time to put something on,” he said. “You can’t just say, ‘We’ll do it in October’.”

The AP interview ended up as a high-trending Twitter post on Tuesday.

An estimated 80,000 people reportedly have been infected with the virus, which has killed 2,600, raising concerns about its spread among a massive international gathering.

The end of May is when preparations for the games begin in earnest, from security to food and lodging, said Pound, a former Canadian swimming champion who has been on the IOC since 1978. Media also will be building stages, he added.

If officials decide it’s too risky to continue, “you’re probably looking at a cancellation," Pound said.

For now, he urged athletes to continue training as usual, assuring them that the International Olympic Committee is “not going to send you into a pandemic situation.”

In modern-day history, only war has cancelled the Olympics – World War I in 1916 and World War II twice, in 1940 and 1944.

Four years ago, a Zika virus outbreak threatened but didn’t scuttle the games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

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