IOC expresses ‘full commitment’ to staging Tokyo Games on planned dates

The 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo are expected to go ahead as planned despite fears they might have to be delayed because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Organisers announced on Tuesday that they remain committed to staging the event as scheduled between July 24 and August 9 after Japan’s Olympic minister Seiko Hashimoto suggested it could be postponed until later in the year with more than 90,000 Covid-19 cases and in excess of 3,000 deaths confirmed globally.

A statement from the International Olympic Committee’s executive board said: “The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board (EB) today expressed its full commitment to the success of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, taking place from 24 July to 9 August 2020.

“The IOC EB heard a report on all the measures taken so far to address the coronavirus situation, which was followed by a comprehensive discussion.

“A joint task force had already been created in mid-February, involving the IOC, Tokyo 2020, the host city of Tokyo, the government of Japan and the World Health Organisation (WHO). The IOC EB appreciates and supports the measures being taken, which constitute an important part of Tokyo’s plans to host safe and secure Games.

“The IOC will continue to follow the advice of WHO, as the leading United Nations agency on this topic.”

Speculation that the Games could be delayed had mounted earlier in the day after Hashimoto had told the Japanese parliament that the organising committee’s agreement with the IOC could allow for such a scenario.

She said: “The contract calls for the Games to be held within 2020. That could be interpreted as allowing a postponement.”

The coronavirus is having an increasing impact on sport as governing bodies attempt to protect athletes and spectators at the same time as responding proportionately.

Cofidis president Thierry Vittu has hit out with his riders among four cycling teams still in quarantine in Abu Dhabi following the cancellation of the final two stages of the UAE Tour.

He said in a statement: “This situation is really not normal. We’re being held against our will in a place we didn’t choose and for an unknown length of time.”

Gianni Infantino has called for calm
Gianni Infantino has called for calm

However, FIFA president Gianni Infantino has urged football’s administrators “not to panic” with Switzerland and Italy among countries to have postponed fixtures as a result of the outbreak.

Speaking to member associations at UEFA’s Congress in Amsterdam on Tuesday, he said: “Some of you have had to take important decisions in this respect. Every competition organiser has to study it of course and has to take decisions.

“It is important to consider all the information from the authorities, but it’s also important not to panic.

“Those who have to take decisions, like happened in Switzerland, will take decisions and then be able to move forward.

“Someone said to me football can be an antidote to coronavirus. I wouldn’t go that far, but sometimes football is an antidote to many other illnesses like discrimination and racism, and this is a fight we need to fight all together.”

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin is confident this summer’s Euro 2020 finals will also go ahead as planned.

He said: “Let’s try to be optimistic and not think about dark scenarios. There’s time for that later.”

UEFA general secretary Theodore Theodoridis added: “We have been working on detailed scenarios, and don’t forget – the Euros starts in June.

Scotland manager Steve Clarke will not attend the Nations League draw in Amsterdam
Scotland manager Steve Clarke will not attend the Nations League draw in Amsterdam

“We have plenty of matches in the next couple of weeks, so there are different scenarios which we are not allowed to share further details of right now. But I assure you that yes, there are plans for everything.

“We do not want to start speculating at this stage. We want to take it very seriously, case by case, involving the different stakeholders. We do not want to start speculating on what may happen in three or four months’ time.”

However, the Scottish Football Association has confirmed that national team manager Steve Clarke will not travel to the Nations League draw in Amsterdam on Tuesday evening because of the outbreak.

The SFA has decided Clarke, whose side are scheduled to face Israel in a Euro 2020 play-off semi-final at Hampden Park on March 26, would be too difficult to replace and should not be exposed to “unnecessary risk”.

Meanwhile, a wheelchair rugby test event which was due to take place between March 12 and 15 has been called off by the Japan Para Sports Association.

📝A statement from Hugh Brasher, Event Director, Virgin Money London Marathon .

— Virgin Money London Marathon (@LondonMarathon) March 3, 2020

Motorsport has also been hit with three members of the Renault Sport Academy – F2 driver Christian Lundgaard, Caio Collet and 16-year-old Hadrien David – continuing winter training at their hotel in Tenerife after they and academy director Mia Sharizman were held in quarantine following a positive coronavirus diagnosis for another guest.

The sport’s governing body, the FIA, says it is “closely monitoring the evolving situation” regarding the virus, with organisers of next month’s London Marathon also keeping an eye on developments.