COVID-19 INFORMATION What you need to know about the coronavirus if you are living in Japan or planning a visit.
Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Photo: REUTERS file
2020 tokyo olympics

IOC reviewing Games scenarios; cancellation not among them: Bach

47 Comments

The International Olympic Committee is considering various scenarios for the Tokyo Games amid the coronavirus pandemic but cancellation is not one of them, IOC President Thomas Bach has told the New York Times.

Organizers of the world's biggest multi-sports event have repeatedly said the Games would start on July 24 as scheduled, even as the rapid spread of the flu-like virus has brought sporting events around the globe to a standstill.

The coronavirus, which emerged in China late last year, has killed more than 10,000 people worldwide, sparking fears that the Olympics might be postponed or cancelled.

Bach, however, said the IOC was not even considering scrapping the Games.

"The cancellation is not on the agenda. We are committed to the success of these Games," he said.

An IOC task force, which included the World Health Organization, had determined it was too early to make a decision on how to manage the impact from the pandemic on the Olympics.

"We don't know what the situation will be," he said.

"Of course we are considering different scenarios, but we are contrary to many other sports organizations or professional leagues in that we are four and a half months away from the Games.

"What makes this crisis so unique and so difficult to overcome is the uncertainty. Nobody today can tell you what the developments are tomorrow, what they are in one month, not to mention in more than four months."

Japan is expected to welcome 600,000 overseas spectators and athletes to the event, which has seen sponsors pump in billions of dollars and at least $12 billion spent on preparations.

Bach said the final decision on the Games would not be determined by financial interests. Protecting the health of everyone involved and containing the virus were the main objectives, he added.

"Thanks to our risk management policies that have been in place for four years and our insurance, the IOC in any case will be able to continue operations and continue to accomplish our mission," he said.

"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.

"So for us, while not knowing how long this tunnel will be, we would like the Olympic flame to be a light at the end of the tunnel ..."

In recent days several athletes, including reigning Olympic pole vault champion Katerina Stefanidi, accused the IOC of putting athletes' health at risk by urging them to continue to train while many countries are in lockdown mode.

Bach, a former Olympic gold medalist in fencing, said he sympathized with the athletes.

"For an athlete, the worst thing for preparation is the uncertainty that distracts from training and preparations," he said. "I told the 220 athletes in the phone call Wednesday that we cannot pretend we have answers to all your questions.

"We are in the same situation as you and the rest of the world. It is a unique exceptional situation, which requires exceptional solutions."

© Thomson Reuters 2020.

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

47 Comments
Login to comment

$12 billion spent on prep?? No wonder they don't want a delay or cancellation...

6 ( +10 / -4 )

Interesting how this will play out. Many of the leagues that are shut down now (NBA, MLB, European leagues...) seem like they will restart in June and probably go through August. Does the IOC want to compete with that? While many NBA players usually go to the Olympics, will they if the NBA is in the middle of or just finishing the playoffs? If they sit out, will people watch? What if you held an Olympics and nobody came?

7 ( +8 / -1 )

They need to cancel them. One of the worst things for a competing athlete is to play in front of an empty crowd. You can't hold the Olympics with no in person spectators. As a former athlete, I can honestly say it didn't matter if I played an away game or a home game, the energy from the people made you play at another level. Whether it was exciting the home crowd or siphoning the energy from the away crowd by beating their team. Spectators are a necessary part of sports.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

The IOC wants Japan to be the ones to officially cancel or postpone so it isn’t liable for the billions of dollars such a decision would incur.

For the same reason, Japan wants the IOC to be the ones to officially cancel or postpone.

Both are playing this hugely irresponsible game of chicken to see who blinks first.

Look around he world guys - not just in Japan, but everywhere. Even if things look like they starting to improve by the start of June, is it really the best thing to do to have 600,000 people from all four corners of the globe all come to Japan at the same time?

What is the plan if an athlete we’re to test positive on day 1 of the games? Cancel it all then?

Show some responsibility and postpone it all until such a time we are certain that people’s health will not be put at risk.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Look, no one wants to see them cancelled, postponing them is another thing altogether!

4 ( +8 / -4 )

It's like a chicken game in which both want the other guy to budge lol

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Quibbling about the Olympics?

Time for a reality check.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/health/2020-03-20/coronavirus-covid19-pandemic-how-long-will-it-last/12043196

"Countries might be enacting some degree of control measures right through until a vaccine comes along, according to a new modelling study from Imperial College London.

Realistically, that could be 12 to 18 months away."

Got that?

Well, I will repeat, Realistically, that could be 12 to 18 months away.

For most of us the Olympics will fade away as the hard economic facts hit home.

No money!

Gary

4 ( +6 / -2 )

If the world will be free of Covid by July, then let the games begin. If not, let the world fight this virus. Like Zika virus, some athletes did not go. I imagine if the pandemic continues closer to the opening and the games are still a go, countries/athletes will boycott. People have other things to worry about.

@leighkf, the official money spent is 12b, but unofficially it's almost double.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Bach said the final decision on the Games would not be determined by financial interests. Protecting the health of everyone involved and containing the virus were the main objectives, he add

He sounds contradictory. If the final decision won't be determined by financial interests but by public health safety, then all options must be on the table. You don't take away the option of cancelation. The only thing that makes IOC takes away cancelation as an option is financial interest. Having spent $12billion dollars in preparations, they don't want to cancel and lose that financial investment. The games in their weird reasoning must go ahead even if it means millions of new covid-19 infections and hundreds of thousands of new deaths. Let the athletes whose health will be put in danger start speaking up and the IOC will listen.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Japan and the IOC can say what they like. Look around what happening in the world. The situation will not be over by then but it will be far worse. Their opinion is irrelevant. There will be no Olympic games this year it will not be possible.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

He said cancellation isn’t being considered but I hope postponement is.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Postponing is not cancellation. Postponing is probably the only way they will be successful. By next year there should be a vaccine, air travel will once again be safe, and a world that spent months in lockdown will be ready to go do something fun. Bill it as the world's "Put COVID Behind Us" party, and it might even bring Japan more tourism than if the games had gone ahead without the epidemic.

The very worst thing (other than just skipping them altogether which is not going to happen) would be to hold games that no one goes to, half the athletes have to skip, that contribute nothing to the tourism that was supposed to make them worthwhile.

And since that is the dumbest outcome, that's probably what they will do,

4 ( +4 / -0 )

By next year there should be a vaccine, air travel will once again be safe, and a world that spent months in lockdown will be ready to go do something fun.

If we have to wait till next year for air travel, there won't be any airlines left to travel on.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

the IOC is not even considering scrapping the Games

Translation:

the IOC is considering scrapping the Games

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Realistically, that could be 12 to 18 months away

Exactly!! Nothing will be happening worldwide until a vaccine and successful antiviral drug appears. Until that time international travel will need to be limited

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Of course This “Bach” guy doesn’t want the games canceled or postponed. If they were he’d have to give back all the kick back money and bribes he has received.

I hope he will be personally there to give a hug and a handshake to all the athletes, especially those teams from Chiba, Italy, Iran, and Spain where the virus is out of control.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

The IOC wants Japan to be the ones to officially cancel or postpone so it isn’t liable for the billions of dollars such a decision would incur.

If it's a game of chicken, the way for Japan to win is to get other countries, especially the USA, to pull its athletes. It would actually be an open goal for Trump to show leadership and look presidential before the US election. The IOC is not going to bully the USA, especially given what the CIA will have on major IOC figures.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I feel that behind the scenes, a negotiation is going on.Japan is willing to accept a postponement,as long as they can still host it. But at present, the IOC can't promise that and so Abe is pushing on saying July. Even he knows that ain't happening,but wants Japan to still host.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

No way the olympics are happening. The athletes themselves will boycot it. Many are locked in isolation mode for what will likely be weeks at a time, creating an uneven playing field between countries getting hit hard and those that are not. For the sake of the sports and the safety of the athletes and everyone they directly and indirectly come in contact with as they literally risk their lives to train outside, postpone this already.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

IOC more about the money than safety

2 ( +2 / -0 )

BAN

It is very disturbing and disappointing that Thomas Bach keep saying that the Olympics is 4 months away.

what we need to hear is the latest date that they need to make a decision. I would suggest at minimum April 24th (3 months prior).

Mr. Bach please act responsibly.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japan is being selfish and is only looking out for its own interests. With the pandemic situation worsening day by day, it is inconceivable that the games will go on as scheduled. Most teams, I guarantee, will refuse to participate and spectators from other countries will not travel to attend.

Japan needs to wake up to the fact that they are not alone in this world and to start putting the needs of others before their own selfish interests.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

We don't know what the situation will be," he said.

Mr Bach can be assured of a very ‘eventful’ Olympics if , by chance, it does go ahead...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Many other major sport events have been pushing back their timetable, roughly by a year. Some were announced rather abruptly with short notice. So technically postponement to follow suit is viable with minimal costs.

Athletes' consent should be attained, as a year delay would affect qualifiers and already qualified athletes.

It's also a good opportunity to make the Games' framework more flexible and responsive under contingencies. At stake is not merely the upcoming Tokyo, but also the raison d'etre of the modern Olympiad.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

It's getting to be like a broken record. Then IOC, just hold them!

But I'm not going. None of my friends are. Overseas athletes are not either. And tourists are not coming.

Best of luck and enjoy your time in Japan at safety Olympics.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Japan is expected to welcome 600,000 overseas spectators and athletes to the event, which has seen sponsors pump in billions of dollars and at least $12 billion spent on preparations.

Are these guys on the same planet as us?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

We are sorry but Japan has absolutely NO SAY. It’s IOC alone that can decide. (Like the venue change of Marathon?) We worry about safety of athletes and we do hope it’s postponed. (Cancelling would be so disheartening: Tokyo 2020 was criticised in Japan due to the humongous budget that should have been put in recovery efforts of 2011 disaster.

So, sorry that you think “Japan is being selfish”or “The IOC wants Japan to be the ones to officially cancel or postpone” or (it’s) the way for Japan to win...”. It hurts to see these comments. Anyway, delay to Sep-Nov is impossible because NBC has the broadcasting rights (clash with NBL etc?) and 2021 is not an option unless the IOC changes Olympic Charter. So, what “symbol of hope” would you expect from Japan, Mr Bach?? ...(*´-' )

1 ( +1 / -0 )

bizarre to see Milan with people shut in their homes, others dying in Iran every hour and NYC with empty streets, but these people? are talking about the Olympics; a mass gathering of people in close proximity to each other. Talk about greed and selfishness. Why do japanese have such an obsession about their world image?

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Won't they have a rough postponement plan already in case a big earthquake hit Tokyo this year? They must have discussed the possibility.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Japan is expected to welcome 600,000 overseas spectators and athletes to the event

This particular " expectation " is a bit out of date isnt it?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

This is becoming kind of entertaining because its so Japanese to keep hope alive despite an inevitable outcome. Kind of like surrendering in WWII. Also, how are athletes supposed to train and compete if they are supposed to be practicing social distancing or even come to Japan early to acclimatize? This is a joke!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

If they really want to, there’s nothing stopping them from changing the dates. A precedent was the scheduling of Winter Olympics in 1992 and 1994 in order to allow for a 2 year gap between Summer and Winter Olympics.

Assuming things have quietened down by then, Mar/Apr 2021, coinciding with 桜, would be the optimal time and it would burnish Japan’s credentials as a responsible global citizen if it were to be proactive in enlisting support for this.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It's telling that professionally run, annual sports events internationally are calling their events off.

Yet the IOC and Japan, both infamous for large exchanges of 'favor money' are pushing ahead as if nothing is happening with no apparent plan 'B' to fall back on.

Postponement is the only thing that makes sense.

Japan, in general, is acting like this Pandemic isn't even a thing...can anyone explain why that is so?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

"This ship can't sink!"

"Mr Ismay, she's made of iron. I assure you, she can"

I'm awaiting the Olympic anthem 2020 - Nearer, My God, To Thee

Clinging to this folly is the most monumental hubris.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@spinningplates

Japan, in general, is acting like this Pandemic isn't even a thing...can anyone explain why that is so?

Here is a hint. It starts with the letter, "O".

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Well said Mr Bach. The Olympics are unique to the world as not only a sporting event but culture event and at time when the world comes together in peace and hope. Yes there is a lot of money spent but it is planned out and calculated, not overspent. You cannot even begin to compare the Olympics with any other sport, especially professional sports. The Olympics also donates millions of dollars a day to development of sports and programs and the globe. No one other organizations come remotely close to this figure. I have volunteered at 4 Olympics and I am confident whatever the outcome for the Tokyo 2020. Summer Olympics it will be in the best interest for everyone....athletes, spectators and everyone else involved. The IOC has this....just wait for their decision.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think more people can come next year...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"Of course we are considering different scenarios, but we are contrary to many other sports organizations or professional leagues in that we are four and a half months away from the Games."

Barely four months from the start but what about the two months it takes to get the 'machine up and running'?

The IOC is completely in denial much like Abe is. Move the games to September/October 2021 now!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Know better, you just said what I've been saying for months. I'm glad someone agrees.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Their incompetence will force other countries to quit the Olympics. It's not about them it's about other countries being up to the challenge. Many sports are cancelled so there's no qualifying events. They'd be months behind schedule.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Just a month ago, on Feb. 20, there appeared news:

London can host 2020 Games if moved over coronavirus - mayor candidate

www.reuters.com/article/us-china-health-tokyo-olympics/london-can-host-2020-games-if-moved-over-coronavirus-mayor-candidate-idUSKBN20E0OK

TOKYO/LONDON (Reuters) - London would be ready to host the 2020 Olympics if the outbreak of the coronavirus forced the Games to be moved from Tokyo, Shaun Bailey, the Conservative candidate for mayor of the British capital, has said.

C'mon Shaun, mind your backyard!

Well, things are much harder to predict.... Today it's decided that some metro stations in London are to be closed.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

leighkf:

$12 billion spent on prep?? No wonder they don't want a delay or cancellation...

You don't know what you are talking about. You shall never put your word on their mouths. Japan does not oppose delay. They've never denied possibility of postponement. They only oppose cancellation (中止) and spectator-less games. They are actually expecting postponement, which only IOC, not Japanese or Tokyo metropolitan government, can declare.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Well it’s nice to see that these guys are thinking rationally about this, between the fact that I myself have been saying that it’s too early to just cancel the games now, considering the fact that there’s still four months away.

But seriously, that whole light at the end of the tunnel analogy, was really really good. With all the negativity floating around the world as it is, being able to overcome this, and be able to have the Olympics, is a great source of positivity for the whole world, right at a time that we really need it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

IOC wants the money now !!! do as we say or else :)

poor call imho, disband the IOC !

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"Japan is being selfish and is only looking out for its own interests"

It's either:

You don't now what you're saying;

You simply don't have a foggiest,

Probably both?

If only you knew what a CONTRACT is....

The IOC is in charge of the Games.

They're the ones deciding what happens next.

NOT JAPAN.

Jesus Christ!!!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

know

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

He apparently doesn’t have internet because everywhere I look, people from every country posting in blogs says postpone or cancel. Have yet to find one person (besides high level Japanese politicians) to say let’s have it as planned.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites