In Depth

Coronavirus: three-month window to save the Olympic Games in Tokyo

Ireland vs. Italy Six Nations games are postponed and the F1 Vietnam GP is under threat

International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Dick Pound says the Tokyo 2020 summer games are at risk of being cancelled because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Olympics are scheduled to start in the Japanese capital city on 24 July and The Daily Telegraph reports that the IOC has set a three-month deadline to avert the coronavirus threat.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Pound says if the outbreak proves too dangerous to host in Tokyo, organisers are more likely to cancel the event rather than postpone or move it.

Speaking to AP, Pound said: “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?’. 

“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.”

The senior IOC member added that “you’re probably looking at a cancellation” if Tokyo is unable to host the games as opposed to a postponement.

“You just don’t postpone something on the size and scale of the Olympics,” said Pound. “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’.”

‘Business as usual’ 

While it seems there’s a possible late May deadline for organisers to make a decision on the Olympics, Pound says it’s “business as usual” for the IOC, athletes and officials. 

“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.”

In an interview with BBC Radio 5 live Pound added that any decision would be made in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) and governments. 

“We’re pretty good at dealing with sport problems, but a pandemic is beyond our pay grade,” he told the BBC.

“It will depend on the WHO to make a call with respect to international travel and the places that should be avoided. It may come down to a government intervention in Japan, or other governments saying ‘we don’t want our citizens travelling there’.”

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The Six Nations captains line up ahead of the 2020 championship

Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images

Ireland vs. Italy Six Nations match is off

It was reported yesterday that the Six Nations rugby championship could be “thrown into turmoil” because of the coronavirus outbreak in Italy. 

Today it’s been confirmed that Ireland’s men’s and women’s matches against the Italians on the weekend of 7-8 March have now been postponed. 

Following a meeting with Irish health minister Simon Harris the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) confirmed the games were off and that talks will take place to reschedule the fixtures. 

A statement said: “The IRFU had a positive meeting with Minister Harris and his advisors today, where we requested a formal instruction as to the staging of the Ireland vs. Italy international matches over the weekend of 6/8 March. 

“At the outset we made it clear that the IRFU was supportive of the governments’ need to protect public health in relation to the coronavirus. We were then advised, formally, that The National Public Health Emergency team has determined that the series of matches should not proceed, in the interests of public health. The IRFU is happy to comply with this instruction. 

“We will immediately begin to work with our Six Nations partners to look at the possibility of rescheduling the matches and would hope to have an update on this in the coming days.”

England’s trip to Italy for the final round of the Six Nations on 14 March is also a major doubt. 

Chinese GP already off - what about Vietnam?

Formula 1 bosses have already postponed the Chinese Grand Prix, which was scheduled to take place on 19 April in Shanghai, and now doubts are growing over Vietnam’s debut on the race calendar. 

The inaugural Vietnam GP is set to be held on 5 April in Hanoi but the city’s proximity to the Chinese border means the race is under threat, Planet F1 reports. 

On 18 February the Vietnam GP CEO Le Ngoc Chi insisted that the race would go ahead as scheduled.

However, Formula Spy reports that Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has asked the Foreign Affairs Ministry to apply a policy of closed borders to visitors from South Korea, Japan, Italy, Iran and all other countries and territories with reported cases of the coronavirus Covid-19.

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