While athletes have been told to keep training and not worry about the coronavirus outbreak, Tokyo 2020 Olympics officials are growing increasingly nervous.
While athletes have been told to keep training and not worry about the coronavirus outbreak, Tokyo 2020 Olympics officials are growing increasingly nervous.

Olympic boss warns Tokyo D-Day fast approaching

Australian Olympic boss John Coates has echoed Dick Pound's dire warning that D-Day on whether this year's Tokyo Olympics will proceed needs to be made in about three months.

While athletes around the world are being told to keep training and not worry about the possibility of the Olympics being cancelled because of the escalating coronavirus outbreak, officials are getting increasingly nervous.

As things stand, the official line is that "it's business as usual" and the Olympics will go ahead in Japan from July 25-August 9, but as the death toll continues to climb that confidence is rapidly being eroded as the deadly disease spreads to more countries outside Europe, raising fears of a full-blown pandemic.

AOC boss John Coates has backed a May deadline for Tokyo officials. Picture: AAP/Joel Carrett
AOC boss John Coates has backed a May deadline for Tokyo officials. Picture: AAP/Joel Carrett

The IOC's longest-serving member, Pound has warned if the outbreak is not contained by the end of May officials may have to reconsider whether it is safe to go ahead with the Games.

And Coates, who juggles his job as president of the Australian Olympic Committee with his role as chairman of the IOC's co-­ordination committee for the Tokyo Olympics, said Pound's ­assessment was spot on.

"The IOC is continuing to be well briefed by the World Health Organisation, we are regularly in contact with the Tokyo municipal government and the organising committee," he said.

"This issue is a matter of priority for us. As Dick said, we need to make a decision in three months.

 

Dick Pound is the IOC’s longest-serving member.
Dick Pound is the IOC’s longest-serving member.

 

"The most important thing for the AOC is to establish where the athletes all are and make sure none of them are training in the areas that will make it difficult for them to enter Japan."

The Australian team's chef de mission Ian Chesterman said indications are the Games will happen so no one should panic.

"But we're taking it very seriously," he said. "We are not going to just walk through the next few months avoiding the conversation.

"We are dealing with it … and we remain confident the Games will go ahead."

Dozens of other international events in Asia, including the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix and the World indoor athletics championships, have already been cancelled, while Olympians are now revising their travel preparations as countries go into lockdown and international borders start to close.

 

Business as usual for Ariarne Titmus. Picture: Lachie Millard
Business as usual for Ariarne Titmus. Picture: Lachie Millard

 

Australia's teenage world swimming champion Ariarne Titmus has just returned home from a three-week training camp in Thailand and said while the outbreak sounded "scary", she was training normally.

"I didn't even realise what was happening and then I got home and Mum and Dad were like 'have you heard about this?' but I don't really think about it," she said.

"It's the IOCs, the AOCs, all those big people, it's their job to worry about it, not mine. My job is to focus on making sure I can get onto that team and doing the best I can for my country."

One of the knock-on effects of the outbreak is that China's swimmers, including Sun Yang, were not drug tested for three weeks because of the quarantine shutdown in China, where thousands of people have died.

The World Anti-Doping Agency has confirmed that Chinese ­officials have recommenced out-of-competition testing.



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