Tokyo Olympic organisers have there is “no plan B” for the 2020 Games, which are due to open in just over five months but have been jolted by the outbreak of coronavirus in neighbouring China.
The coronavirus has infected almost 64,000 people globally with almost 1,400 deaths in China.
There has been only one death in Japan but fear is rising with so much attention focused on the outbreak.
“The advice we’re received externally from the WHO (World Health Organisation) is that there’s no case for any contingency plans or cancelling the Games or moving the Games,” said John Coates, the head of an International Olympic Committee inspection team.
A Japanese reporter asked Tokyo organising committee president Yoshiro Mori if, given the fact the Games are going ahead, would there be any “organisational changes”.
“No, at this stage no. We are not thinking of any such possibility,” said Mr Mori, a former prime minister.
“We can confirm that Tokyo 2020 remains on track,” Mr Coates said in his opening statement.
He was asked if he was 100% confident the Tokyo Olympics would go on as scheduled and open on July 24, and replied: “Yes.”
He spoke positively about keeping a close watch on Chinese athletes, and talked optimistically about their eventual presence in Tokyo, where they would probably field a team of 600 athletes — one of the largest delegations.
“We continue also to monitor particularly the Chinese that will be coming here,” Mr Coates said. “You’ll find that the Chinese teams are mostly out of China. That’s the athletes and officials.”
“Frankly speaking, there is no guarantee that the outbreak will come to an end before the Olympics because we have no scientific basis to be able to say that,” said Shigeru Omi, a former regional director of the WHO and an infectious disease expert from Japan.
“So it is meaningless to predict a timing when it may come to an end. We should assume that the virus has already been spreading in Japan. People should understand that we cannot only rely on border controls to prevent the spread of the disease.”
The dynamic growth of the Olympics makes any schedule change difficult.
About 73% of the IOC’s 5.7 billion dollar (£4.4 billion) revenue in a four-year Olympic cycle comes from broadcasting rights. Moving the Olympics back even two months would clash in North America – a major source of broadcasting income – with a full plate of sports including American football, basketball and baseball.
There is also the matter of millions of tickets sold, flights and hotels booked, and 3 billion dollars (£2.3 billion) in local sponsorship sold in Japan with advertisers expecting some return for their expenditure.