(Reuters) – World Athletics chief Sebastian Coe said on Thursday that moving the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to September or October due to the coronavirus outbreak was a possibility but it was too soon to take a decision on whether to cancel the Games.
FILE PHOTO: Athletics – World Athletics Championships – Doha 2019 – Women’s 200 Metres Final – Khalifa International Stadium, Doha, Qatar – October 3, 2019. IAAF President Sebastian Coe reacts. REUTERS/Hannah Mckay
While most of world sport has come to a standstill due to the pandemic, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has remained committed to staging the Tokyo Games as planned from July 24-Aug. 9 despite growing dissent.
“Let’s not make a precipitous decision when we don’t have to four months out,” Coe told BBC Sport.
“If you had to ease that date, you’d have to ease it. It’s possible, anything is possible,” he added when asked if the Games could be moved to September or October.
“Events are changing by the hour but it is not a decision that has to be made at the moment. We’re trying to manage the situation with the information we have but there is not a great deal of information.
“The temperature in the room with the IOC is, nobody is saying we’re going to the Games come what may.”
Europe has become the new epicentre of the flu-like virus that originated in China late last year and restrictions on movement in several nations have hit the training plans of athletes ahead of Games.
IOC president Thomas Bach said they heard athletes’ concerns on health and preparation but Coe said ensuring a level playing field for athletes during preparations may not be possible but it is a challenge World Athletics will strive to overcome.
“Recent evidence suggests China seems to be pulling out of this but if you’re living in Europe, you’re an Italian distance runner and you’re confined to your house, that’s a massive challenge,” Coe told The Times in an earlier interview here
“Our sport has always been about fairness and a level playing field so we shouldn’t feel ashamed to set that as our ambition. The reality is that may not be possible in every case but we want to do what we can to drill down on that.
“Some are not able to train properly, some are not able to access public tracks or indoor facilities and we’re working to try and help them find these facilities.”
The virus has infected nearly 219,000 people globally and caused more than 8,900 deaths so far, sparking concerns over the viability of the Games.
Coe, the driving force behind the success of London 2012 as chairman of the organising committee, said the problem faced by the Tokyo Games was bigger than the mass boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics.
“I lived through Moscow and that was a crisis… This has probably exercised more thinking time and expended more effort for federations than anything I can remember,” Coe added.
“We’re doing everything we possibly can to get our sport and our athletes into the best possible shape through a challenging time and get to an Olympic Games.”
Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar and Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford and Christian Radnedge