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Senior Official Says Olympics 'Probably Looking at Cancellation' if Tokyo Can’t Host

by Eben Diskin Feb 25, 2020

With Japan being home to 157 people infected with the new coronavirus, which has already caused one death in the country (WHO data from February 25, 2020), doubts about the safety of having Tokyo host the Summer Olympic Games are creeping in. Speculation has abounded over whether or not the virus will require the Olympics to be hosted in another country, but a senior member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is putting that rumor to bed.

Dick Pound, who has been on the IOC since 1978 (he’s its longest-serving member) said that the games are far more likely to be canceled entirely then moved or postponed. The final decision, he says, will be made in late May.

“In and around that time,” he told The Associated Press, “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?” He suggested that postponement isn’t a viable option, saying, “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.’” Indeed, should the IOC decide that the games could not safely take place in Tokyo, Pound said, “you’re probably looking at a cancellation.”

The International Olympic Committee is being advised by the World Health Organization, and no one has seriously suggested moving the games from Tokyo, nor has the coronavirus situation reached a level where such a dramatic shift would be necessary. As of now, things plan to move ahead as scheduled.

A version of this article was previously published on February 20, 2020, and was updated on February 25, 2020, with more information.

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