By Karolos Grohmann
ATHENS (Reuters) – The International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Tuesday kicked off a round of internal briefings and discussions with federations and national Olympic Committees to assess the impact of the coronavirus on the Tokyo Games.
Speculation about whether the July 24 to Aug. 9 Games can be held has mounted by the day due to concerns about the virus, which has infected almost 180,000 people and killed over 7,000 worldwide, with the epicenter now Europe.
Sports competitions have come to a halt in Europe, hampering athletes’ preparations for the Games.
No decision is expected from the IOC this week, with tens of billions of dollars already invested in the Games infrastructure and venues by Japan, the IOC and global and domestic sponsors and broadcast rights holders.
The IOC and organizers in Japan have maintained that the Olympics will be go ahead as planned, but the virus has wreaked havoc with the qualification tournaments.
“There will be a series of conference calls over the coming days to discuss the issues,” a source with the Olympic movement told Reuters of the talks.
“The IOC will be informing federations and NOCs about the situation and discuss with them issues linked to the Games and the qualification process as well. There are problems there.”
The IOC on Monday scrapped all Olympic boxing qualifying tournaments to safeguard the health of athletes and spectators but said there would still be some form of qualifying event for the sport for Tokyo.
It said it was still, “fully committed to the success of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020”.
Thousands of Olympic hopefuls are currently either unable to travel, train or compete due to severe restrictions in dozens of countries, raising questions about the level and quality of competition in Tokyo should the Games go ahead.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Tuesday that Group of Seven leaders had agreed to support a “complete” Olympics, but dodged questions about whether any of the leaders had brought up the possibility of postponement.
In a unprecedented meeting with other G7 leaders by videoconference to discuss the coronavirus pandemic, Abe said he had told them: “We are doing everything in our power to prepare (for the Games), and we want to aim for a complete event as proof that mankind can defeat the new coronavirus.”
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)