Coronavirus outbreak won't delay Olympics start, IOC official says

The Olympic Games in Tokyo are still set to go ahead on July 24 and there is no May deadline to cancel the event over the coronavirus pandemic, an International Olympic Committee (IOC) official said Monday.

John Coates, the leader of the IOC’s coordination commission for the Tokyo Olympics, told the Sydney Morning Herald “it’s all proceeding to start of the 24 of July.” Coates will have to go into government-mandated self-isolation when he returns to Australia from Europe later this week.

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Dick Pound, a former IOC vice president, told the Associated Press last month that the end of May was a possibility for a deadline for a decision regarding the fate of the Olympics.

“The IOC didn’t recognize any dates that Dick came up with and I think Dick backed off that as well. It’s all proceeding to start on the 24th of July,” Coates told the Australian newspaper.

“It’s never been the IOC’s position. It was Dick’s idea. There (are) four months to go. Despite a bit of personal inconvenience, I’m very happy that countries are taking these steps that clearly some of the European countries should have taken earlier.”

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Coates was in Europe when Australia announced the mandatory two-week self-isolation on all people arriving into the country after the weekend. The government’s ban on gatherings of more than 500 people caused postponements and uncertainty for Olympic qualifying.

“The difficulty for those who have qualified or will qualify is they won’t get any more international competition,” Coates said, adding that some countries may have to base selections off of time trials or previous performances.

“The Chinese are probably the best organized,” Coates said. “The Chinese are in various parts of Europe and the last I heard is they’re bringing them all together in a university in Paris where they’ll be fully contained, 600 of them, and they will go straight from confinement there, straight into Japan. They won’t put anyone on a plane who has got coronavirus."

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“They’re all basically in serious lockdown.”

The Olympics are set to begin on July 24. The Paralympics are set to begin Aug. 25.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.