International Olympic Committee chief Dick Pound has urged Japan to ensure this summer’s Tokyo Games can go ahead by eliminating coronavirus from the country. Pound, the IOC’s longest-serving member, has warned the Far East nation that fighting coronavirus – which has already claimed more than 2000 lives – represents a “new war”.
“This is the new war and you have to face it,” Pound said, adding that by late May “folks are going to have to ask: ‘Is this under sufficient control that we can be confident about going to Tokyo, or not?'”
Pound said: “It’s a big, big, big decision and you just can’t take it until you have reliable facts on which to base it.
“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.”
Pound told athletes to prepare as normal for the Olympics and assured them “the IOC is not going to send you into a pandemic situation”.
One-time Olympic gold medallist Pound spoke out on the day all 94 J-League football matches until March 15 were postponed as Japan attempts to deal with coronavirus.
“I am sorry to all of the fans,” said J-League chairman Mitsuru Murai. “But we will cooperate in a situation that is somewhat of a national crisis.”
Earlier this week, Team GB’s deputy chef de Mission Paul Ford said there is no cause for concern going into this summer’s Olympics.
“We’re following the situation, working closely with all the appropriate authorities,” Ford said. “But everything we’re hearing is that the Games are on track and will happen in the summer.
“We’re five months away so it’s a long period of time. There’s no point getting into a hypothetical discussion around ifs, buts and maybes.
“We are reassured it is being absolutely taken to the highest level inside Japanese government, IOC and World Health authorities to ensure what is right and appropriate for everyone.”
Serie A football matches in Italy have been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak, while this weekend’s showdown between title-chasing Inter Milan and Juventus will be played behind closed doors.
Ireland and Italy’s Six Nations showdown on Saturday March 7 is in danger of being rescheduled, with Irish minister for health Simon Harris admitting the fixture is under review.
“This situation is evolving,” Harris said. “There will be some big decisions that have to be made in the coming days including mass gatherings.
“Most particularly, I’m thinking of the Ireland-Italy rugby game that’s due to take place in the not-too distant future.”
With various sporting events being postponed or cancelled due to concerns over the spread of the coronavirus, R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said the were taking a “watching brief”.