ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Keystone photo by Jean-Christophe Bott via AP / IOC president Thomas Bach speaks during a news conference after the organization's executive board met Wednesday at the Olympic headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

LAUSANNE, Switzerland — Despite worldwide concern and speculation about whether the fast-spreading virus outbreak will affect the Tokyo Olympics, the International Olympic Committee's leadership is not joining the debate.

"Neither the word cancellation nor the word postponement was even mentioned," IOC president Thomas Bach said at a news conference Wednesday regarding the second day of the organization's executive board meeting in Lausanne.

Bach sought to project calm assurance after holding a conference call with local organizers. In Tokyo, officials then briefed local media, some of whom wore protective masks.

Asked how he could be so confident the July 24-Aug. 9 Summer Games will go ahead as scheduled, Bach replied: "Because we talk to the experts."

"We are a sports organization, and we follow the advice of the World Health Organization," Bach said, referring to the United Nations agency based some 40 miles away in Geneva.

some text
AP photo by Eugene Hoshiko / A tourist wearing a protective mask takes a photo with the Olympic rings in the background on Tuesday in Tokyo's Odaiba district. Tokyo is set to host the Summer Games from July 24 to Aug. 9, with no current plans to postpone or cancel the event despite a virus spreading worldwide.

The coronavirus that emerged in China late last year had infected more than 90,000 people globally by Wednesday and caused more than 3,100 deaths. Serious outbreaks have been experienced in Iran and Italy.

Federal authorities in the IOC's home country of Switzerland, which shares a border with Italy, have banned public gatherings of 1,000 or more people until mid-March to help keep the virus from spreading.

Close to 100 people were in a conference room at IOC headquarters to hear Bach use broadly similar answers to bat away virus questions from different angles.

"I will not add fuel to the flame of speculation," Bach said when asked about deadline for deciding whether to postpone the Tokyo Games.

Asked if the World Health Organization declaring a pandemic would change the IOC's position, Bach said: "I will not take part in any way of such kind of mere speculations."

Bach said he took confidence from having met the WHO's director general and other leading officials last Friday. A task force of officials from the WHO, IOC and Japanese sports and public officials has also been working together for close to three weeks.

The virus has affected qualifying competitions for many of the 33 sports on Tokyo's medal program, with some postponed, venues changed and travel concerns for athletes from China and elsewhere.

"This is challenging, yes," Bach acknowledged, "but I must also say I'm pretty proud of the Olympic movement, for the great solidarity and flexibility everybody has shown so far."

Bach, who won a gold medal in fencing at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, was also asked if he had experienced a period as stressful as this in his 50 years as an athlete and sports official.

"Many," he said, citing concerns of nuclear war with North Korea before the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and the zika virus before the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. He also noted boycotts at each Summer Games from 1976 to 1984, as well as the terrorist attack at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Finally, he added: "Do you need more?"

 

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT