The President of the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee has reiterated organizers were not considering canceling this summer Games in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, but admitted uncertainty remained over the timeline to make a final decision.
The games are scheduled to be held in Tokyo between July 24 and August 9 but their fate appears increasingly in doubt as the world battles to contain the virus.
Tokyo 2020 chief executive Yoshiro Mori, however, insisted the Olympics would go ahead as planned.
“I am totally not considering this,” Mori said at a press conference on Wednesday when asked whether the organizers had considered cancelling the Games, as per Reuters Vincent Lee.
When asked to elaborate on a possible timeline by when the International Olympic Committee and the Japanese authorities may have to make a decision on the Olympics’ fate, Mori’s response was surprisingly terse.
“I’m not God, so I don’t know,” he replied.
Over 3,000 people have died since the outbreak of coronavirus began in Wuhan, a city located in China’s central Hubei province, late last year.
As this chart provided by Statista shows, the virus has spread to over 70 countries across the world, with 93,000 cases confirmed as of Wednesday.
Japan has reported over 1,000 cases—which include over 700 people who were aboard the Diamond Princess, a cruise ship that was quarantined in Yokohama—and 12 deaths.
Mori’s comments came a day after the IOC moved to quell fears the outbreak of coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, could force the postponement of the Olympics.
“The IOC EB [Executive Board] heard a report on all the measures taken so far to address the coronavirus situation, which was followed by a comprehensive discussion,” it said in a release circulated after its executive board met in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Tuesday.
“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.”
During his press conference, Mori added he was pleased with IOC’s stance and that the organizers would continue “to listen to various opinions and be flexible, and to assess the situation continuously.”
While the IOC and Tokyo 2020 organizers are adamant the Olympics will go ahead, on Tuesday Japan’s Olympic minister Seiko Hashimoto suggested the Games could be postponed until the end of the year as the country battles to contain the virus.
“The IOC has the right to cancel the games only if they are not held during 2020,” she told parliament.
“This can be interpreted to mean the games can be postponed as long as they are held during the calendar year. We are doing all we can to ensure that the games go ahead as planned.”
On Wednesday, however, a spokesperson for the Olympics’ organizing committee, clarified the comment.
“We have been informed from the Olympic minister that she is absolutely on the same page and the Games will go ahead as planned,” Tokyo 2020 spokesperson Masa Takaya said.
Last week, Dick Pound, the IOC’s longest-serving member, warned that an event of the magnitude of the Olympics could not be postponed or rescheduled.
“You just don’t postpone something on the size and scale of the Olympics,” he said.
“There’s so many moving parts, so many countries and different seasons, and competitive seasons, and television seasons. You can’t just say, ‘we’ll do it in October.'”