BOA ‘absolutely focused’ on Tokyo 2020 preparations amid coronavirus uncertainty

British Olympic Association chief executive Andy Anson has emphasised preparations for Tokyo 2020 continue despite the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Anson said a planned preparatory trip to Tokyo, with around 55 people travelling, was still set to go ahead as the BOA received information from “every possible source” in a “rapidly evolving situation.”

Meanwhile, uncertainty over Covid-19 was illustrated on Wednesday by Saracens saying Mako Vunipola had not displayed symptoms of the virus and was available to face Leicester this weekend, despite England having ruled him out of their Six Nations clash with Wales.

Anson says a planned preparatory trip to Tokyo is still set to go ahead (Anthony Devlin/PA).
Anson says a planned preparatory trip to Tokyo is still set to go ahead (Anthony Devlin/PA).

On Tuesday, Japan’s Olympic minister Seiko Hashimoto suggested this summer’s Games could be postponed until later in the year because of the outbreak, but the International Olympic Committee announced it remains committed to staging the event as scheduled between July 24 and August 9.

Anson told BBC Sport: “It is not affecting our plans in any way, in that we are absolutely focused on getting the team to Tokyo for the Olympics in July and everyone is obsessed with that, that is the number one focus.

“At the same time we are getting information from all the relevant bodies, so we have got the most up-to-date information on coronavirus, and it is changing every day as you can see with the news stories.

“But we’re in touch with Public Health England, the World Health Organisation, the IOC, the British Government. We are getting information from every possible source so we can make decisions in real time as we go along.

“It’s obviously a rapidly evolving situation, there’s a lot of uncertainty about where it goes. So our assumption is the Olympics is going to happen, but at the same time we are making sure we are aware of what is going on in the world.

“We are going out to Tokyo a week on Saturday for a detailed operational recce, we’re going to take about 55 people, the team leaders from individual sports. We are still going ahead with that because all of the information we are getting says travel to Japan is safe.

“Of course we’ll take all the precautions we’re being advised to take, we’ll make sensible, smart decisions about where people stay and how they interact, but we are going to do that because we think it is an absolutely vital element of our preparation for Tokyo 2020.”

England prop Vunipola, having flown back from Tonga via Hong Kong, did not join up with Eddie Jones’ squad this week ahead of Saturday’s Six Nations match against Wales at Twickenham.

The Rugby Football Union on Tuesday said that while Vunipola was “not sick”, it was “on medical grounds” that he was not in the camp, and it was understood the prop was in self-isolation as a precaution.

However, Saracens released a statement on Wednesday which said of Vunipola and his brother and team-mate Billy, who also made the trip: “Neither Billy or Mako have displayed symptoms of the coronavirus (Covid-19) and on their return to London were assessed by the club’s medical staff.

“The duo have been around the Saracens environment for the past couple of days, with the latter available for selection this weekend.”

The statement added: “Travellers returning from Hong Kong are not currently subject to mandatory quarantine or self-isolation unless they become symptomatic.”

Mako Vunipola was ruled out of England's clash with Wales (Adam Davy/PA).
Mako Vunipola was ruled out of England's clash with Wales (Adam Davy/PA).

“Saracens will continue to follow the Public Health England and World Health Organisation regulations surrounding coronavirus and the medical staff will be closely monitoring Billy and Mako on a regular basis.”

Also on Wednesday, it emerged that the Asia Sevens International, which was set to take place on April 25 and 26 and serve as a test event for rugby sevens at the Tokyo Olympics, had been cancelled due to concerns relating to the virus.

A statement from Tokyo 2020 said: “After confirming it is safe to do so, Tokyo 2020 nevertheless will carry out the tests in some form and will consult with the International Olympic Committee, World Rugby and other relevant organisations to determine the content of such tests.

“We will continue to stay in close collaboration with all relevant organisations as we prepare to deliver a safe and secure Tokyo 2020 Games.”

As a precautionary and proactive measure, in conjunction with the local authorities, the decision has been made to postpone The Ladies Open at Yas Links Abu Dhabi until further notice. This decision is to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of players, guests and visitors.

— The Ladies Open at Yas Links Abu Dhabi (@LadiesOpenYLAD) March 4, 2020

A women’s golf event in Abu Dhabi which was due to start on Friday has been postponed on similar grounds, with a statement on the Twitter feed for the Ladies Open at Yas Links saying the decision had been taken “to ensure the health, safety and well-being of players, guests and visitors.”

On the men’s European Tour, Italy’s Francesco Laporta has been forced out of this week’s Qatar Masters after being faced with two weeks’ quarantine on arriving in Doha.

Under travel restrictions imposed on Sunday, passengers arriving in Doha on direct flights from Italy, or those having been in Italy in the last two weeks, will be taken into quarantine for 14 days.