Tokyo Olympics boss blasts ‘irresponsible rumours’ over virus shutdown

TOKYO (AFP) – Tokyo Olympic organisers stressed yesterday they are not considering scrapping the Games due to the coronavirus and blasted “irresponsible rumours” to the contrary.

With only 162 days to go until the opening ceremony, concerns have been raised about Japan’s hosting of the Games with the virus spreading throughout Asia.

But Tokyo 2020 CEO Yoshiro Mori slapped down such concerns at a meeting with top International Olympic Committee officials.

“With regards to the coronavirus … there are many irresponsible rumours but I would like to make it clear again that we are not considering postponing or cancelling the Games,” he said.

“We would like to coordinate with the national government and act in a calm manner,” he stressed.

File photo shows a tourist wearing a mask posing for a photo with the Olympic rings in the background, at Tokyo’s Odaiba District. PHOTO: AP

The virus has already forced the rescheduling of a swathe of sporting events in Asia, including Olympic qualification competitions for boxing and basketball – both in China.

Formula One’s Shanghai Grand Prix has been postponed from mid-April, with the inaugural Vietnamese Grand Prix also under threat as well as the Hong Kong Sevens.

Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike has promised to implement “thorough measures” to protect people from the coronavirus in the run-up to the Olympics.

Japan has not seen any deaths from COVID-19 but has 28 cases on its soil, with four in serious condition in hospital.

Another 174 people, including a quarantine officer, have been infected on a cruise ship floating off the Japanese coast.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has come under fire for its handling of the infection, especially quarantine measures seen as too lax in the early stages of the epidemic.

“These struggles in turn have sparked concerns about the forthcoming Tokyo Olympics, as Japan prepares for the arrival of millions of international visitors over the summer,” said Tobias Harris from Teneo Consultancy.