By Karolos Grohmann
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (Reuters) – The International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Tuesday gave further strong backing to this summer’s Tokyo Olympics and urged athletes to prepare “full steam” despite the coronavirus threat.
“We are preparing for a successful Olympic Games Tokyo 2020,” IOC head Thomas Bach said at an executive board meeting to discuss the situation.
The 66-year-old German lawyer and former Olympic fencing champion has a firm grip on IOC decision-making and is known for sticking to his guns in adversity.
Both Tokyo 2020 Olympics organizers and the IOC have repeatedly stressed that the July 24-Aug. 9 Games will go ahead as planned despite the outbreak, and that there is no plan B.
“I would like to encourage all the athletes to continue their preparation for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 with great confidence and full steam,” Bach later told reporters.
“From our side, we will continue to support the athletes and the National Olympic Committees.”
However, multiple sports events around the world have been canceled during the epidemic, which has killed more than 3,000 people in China and spread to more than 60 nations including Japan where infections are near 1,000 and 12 people have died.
And earlier on Tuesday, Japan’s Olympics minister Seiko Hashimoto acknowledged that Tokyo’s contract would allow for a postponement until the end of the year.
Despite concerns over possible health risks to spectators and participants, the Olympic body is unwilling to publicly discuss any other option, such as cancellation or postponement, knowing that would throw the Games into confusion.
The IOC board said a joint task force had been created in mid-February with itself, the Tokyo Games organizers, the city, the government, and the World Health Organization to help deal with the coronavirus ahead of the Olympics.
“The IOC EB appreciates and supports the measures being taken, which constitute an important part of Tokyo’s plans to host safe and secure Games,” it said in a statement.
Tokyo has pumped in more than $12 billion to organize the event while billions more were spent on related projects.
Tokyo Games organizers are due to deliver a report via video conference to the executive board on Wednesday.
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