Tokyo 2020 could be postponed amid coronavirus outbreak, Olympic minister suggests
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Tokyo 2020 could be postponed amid coronavirus outbreak, Olympic minister suggests

By Tommy Fradenburg 

Contributing Writer for Telegraph Local | See @tommyfradenburg

Growing concern over the Coronavirus is now threatening 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.

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Japan Olympic minister Seiko Hashimoto announced on Tuesday they could postpone the Games. Hashimoto made sure to express their intention to hold the games at some point in 2020. 

“The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has the right to cancel the games only if they are not held during 2020,”  Hashimoto said on Tuesday.

“This can be interpreted to mean the games can be postponed as long as they are held during the calendar year.”

On the same day the IOC doubled-down on the expectation of continuing with the Olympics as scheduled,  expressing their “full commitment to the success of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, taking place from July 24 to Aug. 9, 2020.”

With the competition still months away, authorities still have time to make a decision. IOC member Dick Pound suggested it could be as late as May before a call is made. 

“You could certainly go to two months out if you had to,” Pound told the Associate Press. “A lot of things have to start happening. You’ve got to start ramping up your security, your food, the Olympic Village, the hotels, The media folks will be in there building their studios. This is the new war and you have to face it.

What is the Coronavirus?

According to the Center for Disease Control symptoms include fever, coughing and shortness of breath. It has had effects of varying severity on those infected, ranging from mild to deadly. 

It began making headlines at the beginning of 2020, after cases of what was thought to be pneumonia appeared in Wuhan, China. By January 20, the virus spread to Japan and Thailand while having killed three victims in China. 

As of Tuesday afternoon 14 countries reported at least 50 cases of the disease that has killed 3,164 people. But despite the growing fear surrounding the virus, World Health Organization officials decided not to designate as a pandemic just yet.

“One of the dangers of using the pandemic word is that you would want containment to continue,” physician Michael Ryan told USA Today. “I would urge all our member states to be ready for very serious, sustained community transmission.”

Precedent for moving Olympics

Hosting the Olympic Games is an incredibly expensive and complicated endeavor. Even for a developed nation like Japan, the costs of bidding and preparing for the Games will end up running to more than one trillion yen (about $9 billion). With London not accepting the proposal to back up Tokyo, there is no easy other solution.

Since their rebirth in 1896, only World War I and II have proven to be enough to cancel the Games. This includes the most recent Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where civil unrest, economic concerns and another disease (Zika Virus) were not enough to move the games. 

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“The IOC will continue to follow the advice of The Who as the leading United Nations agency on the topic,” said the IOC executive board statement.

In the mean time, officials are encouraging athletes to continue their training.

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