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COVID-19 and the Tokyo Olympics: What you need to know


The Tokyo Olympics open in five months on July 24. The Paralympics open on Aug. 25. But the fast-spreading coronavirus from China is making Tokyo organizers very anxious.

Three deaths have been reported in Japan with more than 700 cases – over 600 from a cruise ship that was docked in Yokohama. Globally, more than 77,000 people have been infected in 29 countries, and more than 2,300 have died — almost all in China. China is the host for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Local organizers and the Switzerland-based International Olympics Committee have said repeatedly the games will not be canceled or postponed.

Since the modern Olympics began in 1896, they have only been canceled during wartime. And in 1980 and ’84 they faced boycotts.

Tokyo held the 1964 Olympics and was to hold the Olympics in 1940, which were eventually called off by World War II and Japan’s war with China.

The longer the outbreak continues, the more uncertainly it could create. Both the Olympics and Paralympics have been besieged with unprecedented ticket demand.

Here’s some questions and answers about the virus and its threat to the Olympics.

Q: WILL THE TOKYO OLYMPICS BE CANCELED OR POSTPONED?

The IOC, local organizers, the Tokyo city government and everyone involved is saying “no.” That includes Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. However, a respected Japanese virologist said this week the games would have to be postponed or canceled if they opened tomorrow.

He said it would be “difficult to have the Olympics (now).” Other scientists have said they can’t forecast what the situation will be in five months.

Q: ARE OTHER EVENTS LINKED TO THE OLYMPICS BEING CANCELED OR POSTPONED?

Yes. And the list is growing. Tokyo organizers announced very late on Friday night — near midnight Tokyo time — that training for 80,000 unpaid volunteers was being delayed until May or later. Some volunteers come from abroad. Organizers acknowledge they cannot run the games without them. Organizers this week also announced that a small test event in Tokyo Feb. 28-March 1 would be limited to only Japanese. The test is for Paralympic boccia and was to involve non-Japanese athletes.


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