Sports, Latest on coronavirus outbreak

COVID-19: Japanese premier hints at Olympics delay

Australia calls on athletes to prepare for 2021 games as country expects postponement of Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Riyaz ul Khaliq   | 23.03.2020
COVID-19: Japanese premier hints at Olympics delay

ANKARA

As the world continues to battle the novel coronavirus pandemic, Japan's prime minister on Monday did not rule out a delay of the 2020 Olympics.

Japan is slated to host the world's event, and the major event is scheduled to be held in the capital of Tokyo this summer starting July 24.

In his address to a parliamentary session, Shinzo Abe said: "If it is difficult to hold the games in such a way, we have to decide to postpone it, giving top priority to [the health of the] athletes," Kyodo News reported.

It is the first time Abe spoke on the possibility of delaying the games. He had earlier vowed to hold the major sporting event in its "complete form."

On Sunday, the International Olympics Committee (IOC) discussed the possibility of a delay in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

In a later statement, the IOC said it was "confident" that it would have finalized these discussions within the next four weeks.

It also acknowledged "significant improvements" in Japan to strengthen the committee's confidence, but it also expressed worry about the "dramatic increase" in coronavirus cases and new outbreaks in different countries.

Japan's Tokyo Olympic organizing committee President Yoshiro Mori also threw his support to IOC's decision to review the existing plan of the Tokyo Olympics.

"Although the IOC will make a final decision [on the matter], we are of the same view that cancellation is not an option," Abe told Japanese lawmakers.

"I think many of them [athletes] are in areas where they cannot train properly as the new coronavirus is spreading in the world," he added.

Meanwhile, the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) told its athletes to prepare for a 12-month delay of the Tokyo Olympic Games, according to the daily Sydney Morning Herald.

In a statement released on Monday, the AOC said it was expecting that the Tokyo Olympics would be postponed given the global COVID-19 pandemic.

"The AOC believes our athletes now need to prioritize their health and of those around them, and to be able to return to the families, in discussion with their National Federations," said the statement.

The coronavirus emerged in Wuhan, China last December and has spread to at least 167 countries and territories. The WHO has declared the outbreak a pandemic.

The number of confirmed cases worldwide has now surpassed 339,000 while the death toll has exceeded 14,700 and over 98,800 have recovered, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University in the U.S.

Despite the rising number of cases, most who become infected suffer only mild symptoms and recover.

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