Despite the cancellation of professional sporting events and seasons around the world, the 2020 Olympic Games are slated to still go on.
In a New York Times interview, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach said that he and other officials are “considering various scenarios for the Tokyo Games” as the coronavirus pandemic rages across the globe.
“We owe it to all the athletes, and we owe it to all the half of the world that watches the Olympics to say we are not putting the cancellation of the Games on the agenda,” Bach told the Times when asked about postponing or cancelling the Olympics.
For Bach, the decision to move ahead with the scheduled Olympic events in Japan is the “uncertainty” of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Nobody today can tell you what the developments are tomorrow, what they are in one month, not to mention in more than four months,” he explained. “Therefore it would not be responsible in any way to set a date or take a decision right now, which would be based on the speculation about the future developments.”
The IOC is currently consulting with its own task force, which includes members of the World Health Organization (WHO). The IOC coronavirus task force is reportedly advising Bach that it is “too early to take a decision,” but encourages the group to pay attention to new international developments regarding the disease.
The 2020 Summer Olympics are set to take place in Tokyo beginning July 24.
According to Reuters, Japan plans to see an influx of approximately 600,000 visitors for the Olympic Games, including spectators and athletes. Current preparations have currently cost at least $12 billion.
Bach clarified that “the decision of the IOC” to hold the 2020 Olympics on schedule “will not be determined by any financial interest,” to the Times. He cites risk management policies and insurance to blunt any financial problems that may arise.
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Regarding the athletes set to compete this summer, some athletes have pushed back against the IOC’s decision.
In a separate article, U.S. table tennis player Han Xiao said that the emphasis has not been on protecting public health, but on encouraging athletes to continue training, even in dangerous circumstances. Other athletes, coaches and representatives stressed the need for a safe environment in order for the Olympics to be successful.
Alejandro Blanco, the leader of Spain’s Olympic committee, noted that some athletes may suffer inherent advantages or disadvantages depending on what facilities are closed in their home countries, where gyms and pools may be shut down.
“Our sports people cannot train, and to celebrate the Games (as planned) would result in unequal conditions,” the Times quoted Blanco as having said. “We want the Olympics to take place, but with security.”
For Bach, however, the continuation of the Olympics is a beacon of hope in a stressful time for the world.
He elaborated that “The 206 national Olympic committees and the international sports federations expressed that the world in this extremely difficult and concerning situation needs a symbol of hope.”
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