TOKYO (Reuters) – The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will hold talks with heads of international sports organizations on Tuesday in response to the coronavirus outbreak, a source close to an international federation briefed on the issue said.
A man wearing a protective mask, following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), walks in front of an advertising billboard of Tokyo Olympics 2020, near the Shinjuku station in Tokyo, Japan, March 15, 2020. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov
With less than five months to go until the scheduled start of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics on July 24, questions have been raised as to whether the Games can go ahead.
The virus, which originated in China late last year, has killed more than 6,000 people around the world and infected more than 160,000.
It has wreaked havoc on the global sporting calendar, leading to some Olympic qualification events being canceled or postponed and concern has been rising about whether the entire Games should be scrapped or postponed.
However, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Tokyo 2020 organizers have reiterated that preparations are going on for the Games to be held as planned.
The IOC, asked about a report by Japanese public broadcaster NHK that talks on the impact of the coronavirus were scheduled for Tuesday, said they were a regular part of dialogue with stakeholders.
“Since this situation started to develop some weeks ago, the IOC is constantly updating its stakeholders on the latest developments,” the IOC said in a statement to Reuters.
“The calls are part of this regular information sharing process.”
IOC Sports Director Kit McConnell discussed changes to qualification processes with various international sporting federations last week.
The IOC had established an Implementation Group to “act quickly, where necessary, on behalf of the IOC EB (Executive Board) to approve the necessary changes to the qualification systems”, McConnell said in a letter to federations.
The letter, dated March 9, was seen by Reuters.
Changes could include the extension of qualification periods, but not beyond June 30, the re-assignment of quota allocations and the removal of certain eligibility criteria.
It is not known whether further changes to the qualification process would be discussed on Tuesday.
Several qualifying events, including those for climbing, boxing, fencing and judo have been canceled or postponed, leaving athletes in the lurch about how and when they will be able to qualify for the Olympics.
The number of coronavirus infections in Japan rose to 1,484 on Sunday, including 697 from a cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, and 14 returnees on charter flights from China. Deaths in Japan related to the virus stand at 29.
Reporting by Jack Tarrant; additional reporting by Antoni Slodkowski; Editing by Robert Birsel