Contingency planning for a potential postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics is being stepped up up, the International Olympic Committee has announced.
The Games organiser continues to insist that “cancellation is not on the agenda”, in spite of the growing difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but accepts they could be moved to a new date.
This comes in response to the growing number of high-profile organisations and personalities calling for a postponement, including US Track and Field, the Spanish Football Federation and a number of individual athletes.
The IOC’s executive board will now increase its “scenario-planning” to look at the different possibilities in what is an ever-changing situation. It intends to make decisions within four weeks.
A statement read: “The IOC will, in full coordination and partnership with the Tokyo 2020 organising committee, the Japanese authorities and the Tokyo metropolitan government, start detailed discussions to complete its assessment of the rapid development of the worldwide health situation and its impact on the Olympic Games, including the scenario of postponement.”
It added any decisions to alter the Games, which are due to begin on July, would impact on the “millions of nights already booked in hotels and the calendars of 33 sports, among “many, many more challenges”.
However, the IOC remains adamant that the Games will go ahead at some point.”
The statement said: “The IOC EB emphasised that a cancellation of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 would not solve any of the problems or help anybody. Therefore, cancellation is not on the agenda.”
Olympic preparations for teams and athletes have been severely hampered by sporting shutdowns and social-distancing measures around the world.
The British Olympic Association has urged the IOC to act quickly and decisively.
Chairman Sir Hugh Robertson said: “We welcome the IOC executive board decision to review the options in respect of a postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“However, we urge rapid decision-making for the sake of athletes who still face significant uncertainty.
“Restrictions now in place have removed the ability of athletes to compete on a level playing field and it simply does not seem appropriate to continue on the present course towards the Olympic Games in the current environment.”
Global Athlete, a body representing the interests of athletes, has added its voice to calls for a date change.
A statement read: “Athletes want to be part of a solution to ensure the Games are a success but under the current global restrictions that are limiting public gatherings as well as closing training facilities and borders, athletes do not have the ability to appropriately prepare for these Games and their health and safety must come first.”
“By asking (athletes) to carry on as normal and continue to train for these Games clearly puts their physical and mental health at risk.”
The statement further called on broadcasters and sponsors to show “flexibility and understanding” in allowing the Games to be staged safely.
Sport England chief executive Tim Hollingsworth (centre) has praised how governing bodies have handled the coronavirus outbreak (Steven Paston/PA)
Tim Hollingsworth, chief executive of Sport England, has praised the way UK governing bodies have responded to the crisis.
He said: “I speak to the leaders of the governing bodies, every single one of them is making the absolutely correct difficult decision.
“In the normal course of life these events would be a high point in the calendar. In reality, against the situation, we have all got to take a completely different view.
“We are all missing it but let’s be real, it’s not the priority, it will come back and we’ll love it all the more.”
Meanwhile, Former Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini has tested positive for coronavirus.
“Dear friends, I have been tested for coronavirus and my test result is positive,” Fellaini, now with Chinese club Shandong Luneng, wrote on Twitter.
“Thanks to the fans, medical staff and the club for their care and attention. I will follow the treatment and hope to return to the game as soon as possible. Please everyone stay safe.”
Former Leeds chairman Massimo Cellino wants the Serie A season to be cancelled (Mike Egerton/PA)
Former Leeds chairman Massimo Cellino has called for the Serie A season to be cancelled.
Italy is in lockdown, with more than 4,800 people having died there so far during the pandemic.
Cellino, who owns Italian club Brescia, told the Corriere dello Sport newspaper: “Everything has to be moved to the next season. It is time for realism, gentlemen. This is the plague.
“You can no longer play this year. Think about the next one.”
Liverpool chief executive Peter Moore said club stewards are volunteering to help with crowd control and assisting the elderly with their shopping at supermarkets, while Tottenham defender Toby Alderweireld has said he will donate tablets to hospitals and nursing homes to help sick people stay in touch with family and friends.
In Australia, the National Rugby League has vowed to continue with its season until the Australian government advises otherwise.
The NRL began its season behind closed doors last week and ARL chairman Peter V’landys stated the intention is to proceed with the competition until they are encouraged to shut down matches.
The prestigious Dubai World Cup meeting, scheduled to take place at Meydan on Saturday, has been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Though many of the participants took part in routine exercise on the Meydan track as normal on Sunday morning, it was announced in the early afternoon the card had been postponed.
A statement issued by the government of Dubai’s media office read: “To safeguard the health of all participants, the higher organising committee of the Dubai World Cup 2020 has decided to postpone the 25th edition of the global tournament to next year.”