Experts warn of domino effect of Olympics delay

By Lu Wenao Source:Global Times Published: 2020/3/23 20:45:18

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic flame is displayed at Ishinomaki Minamihama Tsunami Recovery Memorial Park in Ishinomaki, Japan on Friday, after its arrival from Greece. Photo: AFP

Chinese observers warned of the complex procedures and domino effects from the possible postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games scheduled for July as Tokyo Olympics organizers indicated such a possibility after Canadian and Australian Olympic committees said they would pull athletes out of the Games if they push through as scheduled. 

The prospect of postponing the Games increases after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday that delaying the event may be the only option to avoid exacerbating the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang on Monday said at a daily news briefing that China's stance on supporting Japan in hosting the Olympics remains "unchanged." 

China will also "respect the decisions made by the International Olympic Committee and Japanese government after negotiations," Geng said.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) for the first time changed its tune late on Sunday, saying that it has started discussions on the coronavirus impact on the Games, "including the scenario of postponement."

The IOC also ruled out the cancelation of the Games, saying it has set a four-week timeline to finalize the discussion. 

The Tokyo 2020 organizing committee on Monday insisted that they hope the Games could be held in 2020 rather than being postponed for a year, pointing out that the major concern for organizers is the cost of postponement. 

Canada's Olympic and Paralympic committees announced on Monday they are not sending delegations to the Games if the event is held in July as scheduled, while Australia's Olympic committee said that they have already told athletes to prepare for a Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

The series of moves caused heated discussions on Chinese social media platforms, with netizens calling on Japanese authorities to postpone the event due to the rapidly worsening COVID-19 pandemic.  

Luo Le, a Beijing-based sports commentator, told the Global Times on Monday that postponing the Olympics is not simply about choosing a new date.

 "The procedures for postponing the Olympics are extremely complicated and the world has a packed international sports calendar, which means the rescheduling of an Olympics has to coordinate with other major events like world championships."

He noted that as athletes cannot prepare for the Games adequately due to coronavirus concerns, it is more reasonable to have the Olympics postponed as many athletes cannot have their regular training sessions. 

The virus has already had an impact on preparations for the Games, with several Olympic qualifiers canceled and Olympic torch relay events scaled down.

Some other sports observers said that the Canadian and Australia sports bodies may be a little hasty and called on Chinese athletes not to be affected by the two countries' moves. 

Wang Dazhao, a sports pundit based in Beijing, told the Global Times that "Chinese athletes should stick to their training plan as the IOC has not decided on a postponement yet." 

This is not the first time an Olympics was troubled by the spread of a virus, as Rio de Janeiro has waded through the Zika virus epidemic in 2016, while the Pyeongchang Olympics shrugged off the Middle East respiratory syndrome in 2018.

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