TOKYO (AP) — Tokyo Olympic organizers reiterated their message on Thursday at the start of two days of meetings with the International Olympic Committee: the Summer Games will not be waylaid by the coronavirus that is spreading from neighboring China.
“I would like to make it clear again that we are not considering a cancellation or postponement of the games. Let me make that clear,” Yoshiro Mori, the president of the organizing committee, said, speaking through an interpreter to dozens of top IOC officials who are gathered in Tokyo.
The Olympics open in just over five months, and the torch relay begins next month in Japan — a clear signal the games are almost here.
Although there have been no deaths in Japan attributed to the virus, Tokyo and IOC officials are clearly jittery. Sitting among the officials this time was Dr. Richard Budgett, the IOC’s medical and scientific director.
Last week Toshiro Muto, the CEO of the Tokyo organizing committee, said he was “seriously worried that the spread of the infectious disease could throw cold water on the momentum toward the games.”
He backed down a day later and said he was confident the games would go forward, which is the message this time.
The virus on Wednesday forced the cancellation of a popular Formula One race set for April in Shanghai, which draws more than 100,000 over a race weekend.
It has wiped the indoor world track and field championships in Nanjing, golf tournaments, soccer matches, and almost all sports in China including Olympic qualifying events. It is also keeping Chinese athletes from traveling to qualify, which could put their presence in Tokyo in jeopardy.
Saburo Kawabuchi, a former Olympian and the so-called mayor of the Olympic Village that will house 11,000 athletes and thousands more staff members, suggested Tokyo’s hot and humid summer would stop the virus.
“The biggest concern is the coronavirus and the infection,” he said, speaking in Japanese. “Currently we don’t have any clue when this issue will be resolved. Based on various pieces of information we receive, it seems that this virus is not as strong as the influenza virus. The virus is susceptible to humidity and heat. In Japan, we have the rainy season which could defeat the virus.”
John Coates, an IOC member who heads the regular inspection visits to Tokyo, said he expected to receive reports on the virus from the Japanese government, the Tokyo city government, and local organizers in order to see the “necessary precautions that are being taken.”
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