IOC 'committed' to Tokyo Olympics as coronavirus hits more sport
BERLIN – The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is committed to the Tokyo Olympics going ahead on schedule this summer despite fears around the outbreak of the coronavirus, its president, Thomas Bach, said on Thursday.
Bach told Japanese media in a conference call that the IOC "is fully committed to a successful Olympic Games in Tokyo starting July 24," the Kyodo news agency reported.
Asked on possible alternatives to holding the Olympics as scheduled, Bach said: "I'll not add fuel to the flames of speculation."
Veteran IOC member Richard Pound said in an interview published Thursday he would understand any decision to call off the Olympics given the worldwide spread of the coronavirus.
Pound, a former IOC vice president, told Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung he was sure the IOC would not make any decisions on the issue against the wishes of the World Health Organization or governments.
"Pandemic issues are much more important than holding a specific sporting event, even one as big as the Olympics," the 77-year-old Canadian said.
Pound said there was still a three-month window of opportunity to decide whether to cancel the Tokyo Games, but a decision could be taken in less than that time.
Japanese authorities on Thursday reported an eighth death from Covid-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, and more than a dozen infections, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to more than 900. Some 705 came from the cruise ship Diamond Princess.
Japan also ordered all primary, junior-high and high schools to close from Monday to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The outbreak of the virus has played havoc with many sports events around the world, and there was further disruption on Thursday.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) postponed several group-stage matches next month in the Champions League.
The AFC will hold emergency meetings with national and club representatives to discuss the way forward.
AFC general secretary Dato Windsor John said: "These are unprecedented and challenging times, but the AFC is working tirelessly to monitor the situation, including the various travel restrictions, while being in constant contact with our member associations, leagues and clubs."
The AFC said it was also working with football world governing body FIFA to assess the potential impact on the 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup qualifying matches scheduled to take place in March.
In golf, two Italian players have been reinstated to the Oman Open after they had withdrawn as a precaution over the coronavirus, the European Tour said.
Lorenzi Gagli had complained of flu-like symptoms and withdrew along with Edoardo Molinari, who had been sharing a hotel room but had shown no signs of illness.
Both players were isolated in separate rooms but Gagli's test results for the virus were negative.
The final races of the World Cup alpine ski season, at the Italian venue of Cortina d'Ampezzo, are set to go ahead next month without spectators, men's race chief Markus Waldner told Sweden's SVT television.
The international ski federation FIS is working on several scenarios but Cortina remains the venue for the March 18 to 22 events, according to Waldner.
Italy has reported a major increase in new coronavirus cases, but the weekend World Cup alpine skiing races in the north-western resort of La Thuile are going ahead.
An Italian footballer has meanwhile tested positive for the coronavirus after showing flu symptoms ahead of a league game in the third-tier Serie C last weekend, local authorities said.
The player of the Tuscany side Pianese, who remained unidentified, was reportedly tested Monday for the virus.
The Lega Pro, which organizes the Serie C league, cancelled several games in matchday 9, which were scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, and has curtailed the following round set for Sunday and Monday.
Four Serie A games are to be played behind closed doors in northern Italy on Saturday and Sunday. Spectators will possibly be present at Sunday's big match Juventus v Inter Milan. The Serie B has four closed-doors games at the weekend.
Elsewhere in Europe, some amateur football games and an international billiards event in Germany were called off. The German Billard Union said the March 5-8 world championships in carom billiards in Viersent, North Rhine-Westphalia has had to be cancelled.dpa