A man jogs past the Olympic rings in Tokyo as the world waits to see if the Games will still go ahead.
A man jogs past the Olympic rings in Tokyo as the world waits to see if the Games will still go ahead.

Crunch time looming as Tokyo future in the balance

FORMER International Olympic Committee vice-president John Coates believes there is a real chance the Tokyo Olympics won't go ahead as the coronavirus pandemic continues to sweep the globe.

The veteran sports administrator, who remains a member of the IOC, said organisers were being faced with "real problems" to host the Olympics next July.

Coates warned if the Games could not be held then, they would not happen at all. It was a point reiterated last week by IOC President Thomas Bach.

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Coates said even if a virus vaccine was approved for human use before next July, it might not be enough to save the Olympics.

Tokyo had planned to hold the event's opening ceremony on July 24 this year, before the Games were postponed in late March after countries began withdrawing their teams.

"We've got real problems because we've got athletes having to come from 206 different nations," Coates said on Thursday.

"Yesterday, there was 10,000 new (coronavirus) cases in Brazil. Very few countries are as advanced in coping with this as us.

"We've got 11,000 athletes coming, 5000 technical officials and coaches, 20,000 media, we've got 4000 working on the organising committee there at the moment and there will be 60,000 volunteers coming.

"There's a lot of people.


John Coates holds grave fears for the Tokyo Olympics.
John Coates holds grave fears for the Tokyo Olympics.

"The Games can only happen in 2021. We can't postpone it again and we have to assume that there won't be a vaccine or, if there is a vaccine, it won't be sufficient to share around the world."

Coates said October loomed as crunch time to assess the likelihood of Tokyo being able to host the Olympics next year.

"If there are signs that it is being contained but not eradicated, then we are starting to work through - and we're preparing for it now - the different scenarios by which the sport could take place," he said.

"Do we quarantine the Olympic Village? Do all athletes when they get there go into quarantine? Do we restrict having spectators at the venues? Do we separate the athletes from the mixed zone where the media are?

"We'll have a whole range of scenarios we'll start to address this year on the basis that the Games will still take place for the athletes next year. But it could be a very different Games to what we're used to."

Coates said his biggest regret this year had been that the IOC hadn't called off the Olympics earlier, having seen outbreaks in Japan in February.


"My regret is we didn't make the call or weren't able to make the call, weren't advised to make the call, earlier to postpone another year," he said.

"(It was) a terrible time for the athletes."

Olympics chief Thomas Bach agreed that 2021 was the "last option" for holding the delayed Games and he backed Japan's stance that they will have to be cancelled if the pandemic isn't under control.

"Quite frankly, I have some understanding for (Japan's position) because you cannot forever employ 3000, or 5000, people in an organising committee," Bach said.

"You cannot every year change the entire sports schedule worldwide for all the major federations.

"You cannot have the athletes being in uncertainty, you cannot have so much overlapping with a future Olympic Games."

Bach said it was a "mammoth task" to reorganise the Games, which have never been cancelled outside world wars.