Five Olympic Games have been cancelled, all due to war. Now, one may be cancelled to a wholly different kind of threat.
The 2020 Summer Olympics, set to take place in Tokyo in July, is at risk of being cancelled as coronavirus continues to spread throughout Asia and Europe.
It would mark the first postponement of the Olympic Games since 1944, when both the Winter and Summer Olympics were cancelled due to World War II.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Dick Pound, a senior member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), spoke on the status of the 2020 Games. Instead of moving or simply postponing the games to a later date, Pound said that we’d “probably [be] looking at a cancellation” if the IOC thinks conditions are too dangerous to proceed with the Olympics.
He added that it would not logistically make sense to spread the Games around several venues, as “you’d end up with a series of world championships” if this were the case.
Though the coronavirus outbreak began in China and has had the strongest impact there, with over 75,000 confirmed cases and over a death toll of over 2,500 (via the February 24 World Health Organization report), there are now several cases sprouting up outside of China. The same WHO report lists 144 confirmed cases in Japan.
Pound went on to say that although the IOC has a limited time to make a decision, as the games are just five months away, a conclusion could be reached by as late as “two months out” from the games if it came to that.
However, he did not seem to be panicked in the interview, stating that “all indications are at this stage that it will be business as usual,” and that the athletes should continue to train as they’ve been doing.
Of course, health and safety should be the primary concern of the IOC, while finances should be of secondary concern. Coronavirus has not yet reached the stage of a pandemic, but the death toll is nearing a point where it’s not out of the realm of possibility. In either case, the IOC has a massive choice to make in the coming months.