International Olympic Committee 'remains fully committed to the Olympic Games' despite coronavirus

Olympic rings.
The 2020 Olympics will proceed as planned ... for now. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Every other sport may be delayed, postponed or canceled due to the coronavirus, but the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are still planning to go on as planned. The International Olympic Committee released a statement Tuesday saying it “remains fully committed to the Olympic Games” in 2020.

In that statement, the IOC encouraged Olympic athletes to continue training, and said its top priority is to “protect the health of everyone involved and to support the containment of the virus.” The 2020 Tokyo Olympics are expected to begin July 24.

From the release:

We will continue to act in a responsible way and have agreed the following overriding principles about the staging of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020:

1. To protect the health of everyone involved and to support the containment of the virus.

2. To safeguard the interests of the athletes and of Olympic sport.

That messaging is consistent with what IOC inspection team head John Coates said in February. At that time, Coates said the 2020 Tokyo Olympics remained “on track.”

The situation has changed since mid-February. The growing threat of the coronavirus has caused countries to shut down. Leaders have asked citizens to self quarantine in an attempt to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Large gatherings and sporting events have been banned in various cities in the United States — and in other countries. Despite all that, the IOC wants the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to go on.

What is the IOC doing to make sure the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are safe?

The IOC set up a task force in February to monitor the situation, and will rely on its guidance to get through the coming months. The IOC says its actions “will not be determined by financial interests.”

The IOC pointed to measures taken in the Olympic torch relay to prove they are taking the issue seriously. Some aspects of the torch relay will take place without fans. Organizers have asked fans not to gather in large groups to watch the events, and have said any spectator who feels sick should leave. Those participating in the torch relay will have their temperatures tested as well.

The IOC will look to implement similar actions in other areas. It noted that “transport and crowd movement planning remain a key focus of attention.”

How does the IOC expect athletes to keep training for the 2020 Olympics?

Making sure athletes continue to train is going to be tough. Gyms in the United States have shut down over coronavirus concerns. On Monday, the White House recommended the public avoid groups of 10 or more people.

The IOC acknowledged training would be difficult for athletes right now, saying, “athletes are even finding it hard to continue their regular training schedules.” It did not recommend any specific steps athletes can take to remain safe amid the pandemic.

Will the 2020 Tokyo Olympics actually take place in July?

Though the IOC is committed to hosting the games as planned, it’s impossible to predict what will happen. Unless the coronavirus is eradicated by the time the 2020 Olympics are set to begin, hosting the event seems like a bad idea. Even in a situation where the Olympics are significantly pared down, it would be tough to hold events without large groups congregating. That would fly in the face of what many countries have recommended to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

With four months to go before the 2020 Olympics will begin, it’s possible things will change for the better and the Olympics will proceed as planned. Without significant progress over that period, however, it may not be worth the risk.


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