The Olympic rings are reflected in the window of a hotel restaurant as a worker with a mask sets up a table in the Odaiba section of Tokyo. Picture: AP
The Olympic rings are reflected in the window of a hotel restaurant as a worker with a mask sets up a table in the Odaiba section of Tokyo. Picture: AP

Tokyo responds to Olympic coronavirus fears

The Tokyo Olympics will continue as planned.

As the world braces for the coronavirus to be declared a global pandemic, the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee insisted yesterday they would not cancel the Games.

An official spokesman for the committee said: "We have never discussed cancelling the Games. Preparations for the Games are continuing as planned."

"Countermeasures against infectious diseases constitute an important part of our plans to host a safe and secure Games.

A boy with a mask poses with a 2020 Olympic torch while visiting the Tokyo Olympic Museum. Picture: AP
A boy with a mask poses with a 2020 Olympic torch while visiting the Tokyo Olympic Museum. Picture: AP

"To address the novel coronavirus issue, the Government of Japan has established the Novel Coronavirus Response Headquarters ... and intends to pay full attention to the virus's impacts and thoroughly respond to them.

"The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has also established an internal task force.

"We have created a framework for periodic updates between Tokyo 2020 and the IOC and will continue to stay in close collaboration."

The Olympic rings are reflected in the window of a hotel restaurant as a worker with a mask sets up a table in the Odaiba section of Tokyo. Picture: AP
The Olympic rings are reflected in the window of a hotel restaurant as a worker with a mask sets up a table in the Odaiba section of Tokyo. Picture: AP

However, speculation is mounting that one of the year's biggest events will be impacted starting with the torch relay starting in Greece on March 12.

The Olympic torch will be lit at the site of the Ancient Greek Games before a seven-day relay in Greece then a handover ceremony in Athens to Japan on March 19. It will then go on a relay around Japan before ending with the Games' opening ceremony in Tokyo on July 24.

The logos for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics are displayed at a grand opening ceremony of the Ariake Arena, a venue for volleyball at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and wheelchair basketball during the Paralympic Games. Picture: AP
The logos for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics are displayed at a grand opening ceremony of the Ariake Arena, a venue for volleyball at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and wheelchair basketball during the Paralympic Games. Picture: AP

Some 10,000 people over 121 days will carry the torch in Japan, a country second only to China for the highest rate of COVID-19 infections - 773 infections, most of these on the Diamond Princess cruise ship - just over three kilometres from the Yokohama Baseball stadium.

But as the torch is not handed between runners, rather the flame of one lights the next, there is limited human contact.

The IOC backed Tokyo organisers and said it had been advised by the World Health Organisation that there is no case for contingency plans to cancel or relocate the Games.

It is currently unclear if the Organising Committee has a contingency plan and there is a reluctance to address the uncertainty.

When asked if there was indeed a Plan B, the Organising Committee ignored the question directly and as part of their statement said: "Tokyo 2020 will continue to collaborate with all relevant organisations which carefully monitor any incidence of infectious diseases and we will review any countermeasures that may be necessary with all relevant organisations."


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