The longest-serving member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) believes that there is about a three-month window to decide the fate of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which are being threatened by the fast-spreading coronavirus that originated in China.
Dick Pound, 77, has been an IOC member since 1978 and has served 13 years longer than current President Thomas Bach. Pound conducted an exclusive interview with the Associated Press this week.
“You could certainly go to two months out if you had to,” Pound told the AP, which would mean delaying a decision until late May. “A lot of things have to start happening. You’ve got to start ramping up your security, your food, the Olympic Village, the hotels, the media folks will be in there building their studios. This is the new war and you have to face it. In and around that time, I’d say folks are going to have to ask: ‘Is this under sufficient control that we can be confident about going to Tokyo, or not?’”
On mainland China, the impact of the coronavirus totals to more than 77,600 cases and 2,660 deaths. Despite the concerns, Pound encourages athletes to keep training for the games.
“As far as we all know you’re going to be in Tokyo,” he said. “All indications are at this stage that it will be business as usual. So keep focused on your sport and be sure that the IOC is not going to send you into a pandemic situation.”
The modern Olympic games have only been cancelled during wartime (including 1940 in Tokyo during World War II).
Pound added that it is unlikely that the venue for the Olympics could be changed at such short notice.
“To move the place is difficult because there are few places in the world that could think of gearing up facilities in that short time to put something on,” he told the Associated Press.
Pound said that there is also the possibility of delaying the Olympics. However, he added that the future of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo was, for the most part, out of the IOC’s control. He said it depends on how the virus plays out.