Dubai: Amid the chaos and tragedy of the coronavirus outbreak across the globe, COVID-19 could be about to claim its biggest sporting victim as the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics have been thrown into doubt.
The organisers of the games in Japan have been bullish in the face of the virus thus far, but details have emerged that suggest they are considering postponing the event until November.
Japan’s Olympics minister has said that rather than see the Games cancelled altogether as the global crisi deepens, they may instead opt to suspend them until the end of the year - Tokyo’s contract with the International Olympic Committee has an allowance for such an eventuality.
“The contract calls for the Games to be held within 2020. That could be interpreted as allowing a postponement,” Seiko Hashimoto said.
Under the hosting agreement, the right to cancel the Games belongs to the IOC. Thomas Bach, president of the IOC, last week said his organisation was “fully committed” to holding the Tokyo Olympics on schedule despite the coronavirus spread.
Hashimoto said Japan’s government and Tokyo were still committed to hosting the sporting event, due to begin on July 24.
“We are doing all we can to ensure that the Games go ahead as planned,” she told parliament.
Hoever, to add to the fears of a postponement, on Tuesday a Tokyo Olympic test event featuring Paralympic wheelchair rugby was called off because of the virus.
The test event was to take place on March 12-15 in Tokyo and original plans called for athletes from abroad.
To curb the coronavirus, Japan's government has asked schools to close and encouraged the curtailment of events, including sports meetings, that could attract large crowds.