Coronavirus won’t delay Tokyo Olympics, says WHO

The event is set to start July 24

TOKYO — The World Health Organization has told Olympic organizers that there is no need to consider changing plans for the Games in Tokyo this summer because of the outbreak of novel coronavirus, according to the International Olympic Committee.

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The Games are due to open on July 24 and are expected to bring hundreds of thousands of fans and athletes from around the world to the Japanese capital. Japan has reported more than 250 cases of infection with the virus, most of which are among people from a cruise ship docked near Tokyo. On Thursday, Japan reported its first human death attributed to the virus, which is believed to have originated in Wuhan, in central China.

On Friday, Japanese and IOC officials said they were monitoring developments around the outbreak but weren’t thinking of alterations to plans for the Olympics.

“Certainly the advice that we’re received externally from the WHO is that there’s no case for any contingency plans for canceling the Games or moving the Games,” John Coates, the head of an IOC inspection team for the 2020 Games, said during a visit to Tokyo.

Asked to comment on Coates’ remark, Tarik Jasarevic, a spokesman for the WHO, said in a statement: “There is no evidence at present to suggest that there is community spread outside China, so WHO is not currently requesting that large gatherings are canceled.”

The Japanese organizers of the Games say they have set up an internal committee to consider countermeasures if they become necessary to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

Some preliminary tournaments for the Olympics have been affected by the spread of the virus, including qualifying matches for boxing that were scheduled to take place in Wuhan.

Japan has banned visitors from Wuhan’s province as well as another nearby province, raising questions over whether Chinese fans and athletes will be able to travel to the Games if restrictions remain in place in the summer.

Coates said he didn’t expect a significant impact on Chinese representation at the Games because many of China’s athletes were already preparing outside of their home country.

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“You’ll find that the Chinese teams are mostly out of China. That’s the athletes and officials,” Coates said.

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China’s state-controlled news agency reported earlier this month that the nation’s Olympic athletes are being kept away from areas hit by the virus.

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“They are training in behind-closed-doors camps in various domestic and overseas cities in preparation for the Olympic Games and qualifying tournaments,” Liu Guoyong, vice president of the Chinese Olympic Committee, was quoted as saying by the Xinhua News Agency.

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