Olympics won't be cancelled over virus

Antoni Slodkowski
Tokyo Olympics chief Yoshiro Mori is totally not considering cancelling the games over coronavirus

The president of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics organising committee has rebuffed speculation that the games might be cancelled due to deepening concern about the coronavirus outbreak, declaring that was not an option.

"I am totally not considering this," Yoshiro Mori told reporters at a briefing on Wednesday when asked about a possible cancellation.

Asked when the organisers could decide on changes to the Olympics, he said: "I'm not God so I don't know."

But Mori, who repeated several times that the only plan right now was to hold the Games as scheduled, also emphasised that the organisers were listening to various opinions and would be flexible.

"The situation changes every day. It changes depending on the place. That's why we need to respond in a flexible manner," Mori said.

The number of confirmed coronavirus infections in Japan has topped 1000, according to a Reuters calculation, of which 706 are from the Diamond Princess liner. A total of 12 have died, of which six were from the Diamond Princess.

This has fuelled worries the Games could be postponed or even cancelled. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has asked schools to close this month, companies are encouraging employees to work from home and sporting events are being cancelled or played in empty arenas.

Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto fuelled concerns about a delay, saying on Tuesday that Tokyo's contract with the IOC "could be interpreted as allowing a postponement" until the end of the year, although she reiterated the government remained committed to the Games starting on July 24.

Mori said Hashimoto had told him that her remarks had been misinterpreted and taken out of context.

Mori spoke after a videolink with the board members of the International Olympic Committee, during which he briefed them on measures Tokyo 2020 officials were taking to control the spread of coronavirus during the events in the run up to the Games. The IOC board members are holding a two-day meeting in Lausanne.

Mori said he was "happy" and "encouraged" to hear that IOC President Thomas Bach was confident that the Olympics would begin as scheduled on July 24.

The organising committee's CEO, Toshiro Muto, said it will monitor the temperature and the overall health of the runners and staff taking part in the Olympic torch relay which will arrive in Japan on March 20.