LAUSANNE, Switzerland (Reuters) – The words ‘cancellation’ or ‘postponement’ were not mentioned during an International Olympic Committee meeting focusing on preparations for the Tokyo 2020 Games amid the coronavirus outbreak, IOC President Thomas Bach said on Wednesday.
Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) attends a news conference after an Executive Board meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, March 4, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
Bach was speaking at the end of the two-day meeting at the organization’s headquarters.
The meeting included a report from Tokyo Games organizers that earned praise from Bach.
Asked what made him so confident the Games would go ahead, Bach said the IOC and 2020 Games organizers were receiving expert information, including from the World Health Organization.
“I can tell you in the meeting of the IOC Executive Board (that) neither the word ‘cancellation’ nor the word ‘postponement’ was mentioned,” Bach told reporters.
The coronavirus outbreak so far has infected tens of thousands of people globally and killed more than 3,000.
Japan’s confirmed coronavirus infections rose above 1,000 on Wednesday, most of them from a quarantined cruise liner. Twelve people have died in the country, six from the ship.
The outbreak has also prompted the cancellation or postponement of numerous major international sporting events and raised concerns about the Tokyo Olympics which are due to start on July 24.
Among those events affected are several Olympic qualifiers that were due to take place in the coming weeks and months but have had to be delayed or canceled.
“We have challenges now with the Olympic qualifications,” Bach said.
“It is challenging, yes, but I must also say I am pretty proud of the Olympic movement and of the great solidarity and flexibility everybody has shown to address these challenges and to ensure fair qualifications.”
Bach said it was not the first time the Olympics were in trouble months before the Games. Since 1896 the Games have only been canceled for the two World Wars.
“We had (before the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Games) a situation where we did not know if we could have Games on the Korean peninsula (because of tensions with North Korea),” he said.
“Before Rio de Janeiro 2016 we were talking about the Zika virus.
“Boycott discussions about Moscow 1980, we had the counter-boycott in Los Angeles 1984. We had a terrorist attack in Munich in 1972. We had the African boycott in 1976. You need more?”
Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Toby Davis