Bach insists Tokyo 2020 cancellation 'not on the agenda'
Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, has insisted there is no consideration being given to cancelling the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Amid the virus outbreak forcing the suspension of sporting events around the globe, organisers of the Olympic and Paralympics have repeatedly said the games will start as scheduled on 24 July.
Bach told the New York Times: “The cancellation is not on the agenda. We are committed to the success of these games.”
He added than an IOC task force, which includes the World Health Organisation, had said it is too early to make a decision on how to manage the impact of the pandemic on the games.
He said: “We don’t know what the situation will be. Of course we are considering different scenarios, but we are contrary to may other sports organisation or professional league in that we are four and a half months away from the games.”
The Tokyo games is expected to attract more than 600,000 overseas visitors and athletes to the event, with at least $12 billion already spent on preparations.
However, Bach stressed the IOC’s final decision would be based on the protection of health and containing the virus rather than financial interests.
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.
“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.”
There has been mounting criticism from athletes, with the IOC accused of putting them in danger by insisting it remains fully committed to the games. On Tuesday, the IOC asked athletes to continue preparations “as best they can”.
Greek Olympic champion Katerina Stefanidi said the IOC was “risking our health”, while Britain’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson said training had become “impossible”.
Some 57 per cent of athletes have qualified for Tokyo 2020.
Responding to the comments by athletes, Bach said: “For an athlete, the worst thing for preparation is the uncertainty that distracts from training and preparations. 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 situation, which requires exceptional solutions.”