IOC President: 'Cancellation Is Not on the Agenda' for 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistMarch 20, 2020

Snow falls on the Olympic rings near the New National Stadium in Tokyo, Saturday, March 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach has no plans to cancel the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo even in the face of the global coronavirus pandemic.

"We owe it to all the half of the world that watches the Olympics to say we are not putting the cancellation of the Games on the agenda," he said, per Matthew Futterman of the New York Times.

Bach did not commit to a date that a decision would have to be made regarding whether the Games will be postponed or canceled, but his comments made it clear postponement is far more likely than cancellation in his mind.

Futterman also asked him about the level of fairness involved when some athletes cannot train with worldwide shutdowns and lockdowns impacting a number of countries. Bach did not provide a direct answer and instead left it up to the individual athletes or national Olympic committees:

"We advised the athletes to get in touch with their (national Olympic committees) and national authorities to have firsthand information about what is possible for their training, while respecting their restrictions. We have seen in some countries there are opportunities. We also have seen athletes are very creative to bridge this gap for training at home and other training methods. It is a unique exceptional situation, which requires exceptional solutions."

The opening ceremony for the Games is scheduled for July 24.

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Andrew Keh and Tariq Panja of the New York Times noted a number of athletes and Olympic committees have grown frustrated with the IOC about a lack of guidance as that date approaches. The report suggested officials from the IOC have "sidestepped many questions or provided vague answers on a number of pressing issues" and not committed to alternative plans.

One official reportedly even went as far as to say, "You have to remember, this is not a deadly disease," which prompted Seyi Smith, the chairman of the Canadian Olympic Athletes' Commission, to offer a rebuttal and explain the severity of the coronavirus.

While Bach and the IOC have not made any adjustments to this point regarding the future of the Olympics, the rest of the sports world has largely come to a halt.

Leagues such as the NBA, NHL and MLS all suspended their current seasons, Major League Baseball stopped spring training and pushed back the start of its regular season, the NCAA canceled the men's and women's basketball tournaments that largely define the sports calendar in March in the United States, and events such as the Masters and Kentucky Derby were postponed. 

The World Health Organization has confirmed more than 209,000 cases and more than 8,700 deaths from the coronavirus, as of Thursday.