MADRID – The International Olympic Committee said on Sunday that postponing the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo is one option amid the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, although it added that canceling the Games altogether is “not on the agenda.”
Strong pressure has been brought to bear on the IOC by numerous athletic organizations, sporting federations and athletes around the world to postpone the Games – scheduled from July 24 to Aug. 9.
The World Health Organization announced on Sunday that, according to its latest figures, a total of 294,110 cases of COVID-19 have been detected worldwide, and 12,944 people have died.
IOC president Thomas Bach said that a decision on when to hold the Games would be made “within the next four weeks.”
Following the Olympic Games, the Paralympic Games are scheduled to be held in the Japanese capital from Aug. 25 through Sept. 9, yet clearly they may be postponed if the Olympics themselves are set back.
Although Bach said a decision on when the Games take place would be made “within the next four weeks,” he added that canceling the Tokyo Games was “not on the agenda,” suggesting nevertheless that it was a potential option.
“Human lives take precedence over everything, including the staging of the Games … We have, as indicated before, been thinking in different scenarios and are adapting them almost day by day,” Bach wrote to athletes around the world in an open letter.
The IOC in its announcement that the world situation regarding the virus was worsening and thus the body – in cooperation with the Tokyo Organizing Committee, Japanese authorities and the Tokyo metro government – had taken the first step in planning for possible alternative scenarios and will begin detailed discussions with those authorities to analyze the situation.
Meanwhile, Andre Giraud, the head of the French athletics federation, said postponement of the Games was inevitable.
“Everyone agrees that the Games cannot be held on the dates planned,” he said, adding that “if the crisis is contained by the end of May, we can envisage a postponement of the Games to the autumn. But Plan C would be a six-month or one-year postponement.”
Meanwhile, World Athletics – formerly known as the International Amateur Athletic Federation and International Association of Athletics Federations and the world body governing the sport of athletics – said on Sunday that it is ready to work with the IOC to find an alternative time period in which to hold the 2020 Tokyo Games.
World Athletics issued a statement to that effect after the IOC announced that it would take four weeks to decide on what to do about the Games in light of the coronavirus pandemic.