Five months out, Japan's Olympics organisers say 'no plan B' amid coronavirus fears
Japan's Olympic organisers say they have 'no plan B' for cancelling.Credit: AP

Organisers for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics say they have no contingency plans for cancelling the event, despite rising fears of a coronavirus outbeak in neighbouring China.

Officials said plans for the Summer Olympics to open on July 24 remained "on track", despite jolts from the virus which has infected almost 64,000 globally and killed more than 1,400, mostly in China.

“The advice we’re received externally from the WHO (World Health Organisation) is that there’s no case for any contingency plans or cancelling the Games or moving the Games,” said John Coates, the head of an International Olympic Committee inspection team.

Japan reported its first coronavirus death on Thursday, and is carrying out checks on passengers of a quarantined cruise ship, Diamond Princess, after the virus was found onboard earlier in February.
A man in a protective suit on the deck of the Diamond Princess.Credit: AP

Mr Coates said organisers would keep a close watch on the Chinese delegation - expected to include a team of 600 athletes and officials.

A Japanese reporter asked Tokyo organising committee president Yoshiro Mori if, given the fact the Games are going ahead, would there be any “organisational changes”.

“No, at this stage no. We are not thinking of any such possibility,” said Mr Mori, a former prime minister.

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There was scepticism outside the Olympic circle about the effect the virus outbreak would have on the event.

“Frankly speaking, there is no guarantee that the outbreak will come to an end before the Olympics because we have no scientific basis to be able to say that,” said Shigeru Omi, a former regional director of the WHO and an infectious disease expert from Japan.

"We should assume that the virus has already been spreading in Japan. People should understand that we cannot only rely on border controls to prevent the spread of the disease," he said.
A sign for Tokyo 2020 on the subway in Tokyo.Credit: AP

The dynamic growth of the Olympics makes any schedule change difficult.

About 73% of the IOC’s $5.7billion (£4.4 billion) revenue in a four-year Olympic cycle comes from broadcasting rights. Moving the Olympics back even two months would clash in North America – a major source of broadcasting income – with a full plate of sports including American football, basketball and baseball.

There is also the matter of millions of tickets sold, flights and hotels booked, and $3billion (£2.3billion) in local sponsorship sold in Japan with advertisers expecting some return for their expenditure.