IOC to hold talks with sport chiefs

The International Olympic Committee will hold talks with heads of international sports organizations today in response to the coronavirus outbreak, a source close to an international federation briefed on the issue said.

The IOC will also hold an unscheduled Executive Board meeting via teleconferencing today to internally discuss the latest developments, another source said. A source within the Olympic movement claimed that no decision was expected by the EB today.

With less than five months to go until the scheduled start of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics on July 24, questions have been raised as to whether the Games can go ahead.

The virus, which originated in China late last year, has killed more than 6,000 people around the world and infected more than 160,000.

It has wreaked havoc on the global sporting calendar, leading to some Olympic qualification events being cancelled or postponed and concern has been rising about whether the entire Games should be scrapped or postponed.

However, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Tokyo 2020 organizers have reiterated that preparations are going on for the Games as planned.

Abe told parliament yesterday he wanted the Tokyo Games to represent a world’s victory over the coronavirus pandemic, Kyodo newswire reported.

According to a telephone poll conducted by Kyodo, however, Abe’s fellow citizens are less optimistic about prospects for the Games, with 69 percent of respondents saying they did not think Tokyo would be able to host the gathering as planned.

Kyodo did not say how many people were questioned in the survey.

The IOC, asked about a report by Japanese public broadcaster NHK that talks on the impact of the outbreak were scheduled for today, said they were a regular part of dialogue with stakeholders.

“Since this situation started to develop some weeks ago, the IOC is constantly updating its stakeholders on the latest developments,” the IOC said in a statement. “The calls are part of this regular information sharing process.”

IOC Sports Director Kit McConnell discussed changes to qualification processes with various international sporting federations last week.

The IOC had established an Implementation Group to “act quickly, where necessary, on behalf of the IOC EB to approve the necessary changes to the qualification systems,” McConnell said in a letter, dated March 9, to federations.

Changes could include the extension of qualification periods, but not beyond June 30, the reassignment of quota allocations and the removal of certain eligibility criteria.

It is not known whether further changes to the qualification process would be discussed at the IOC EB meeting scheduled for today.

Several qualifying events, including those for climbing, boxing, fencing and judo, have been cancelled or postponed, leaving athletes in the lurch about how and when they will be able to qualify for the Olympics.

John Coates, the leader of the IOC’s coordination commission for the Tokyo Olympics, said there is no May deadline to cancel the Games and he remains confident the event will go ahead.

Coates, who will have to go into government-mandated self-isolation when he returns to Australia this week from Olympic business in Europe, told the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper: “It’s all proceeding to start on the 24th of July.”

Dick Pound, a former IOC vice president, said last month that the end of May loomed as a possible deadline for the IOC to make a call on the Tokyo Olympics.

But Coates, an IOC vice president and head of the Australian Olympic Committee, told the paper in a telephone interview from Switzerland that the IOC didn’t recognize the deadline and he thought Pound had backed away from it, too.

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