Clock is ticking on Tokyo Olympics coronavirus decision

A decision on whether the games will go on as planned must be made by late May.

People wear medical masks as a precaution to protect themselves from coronavirus in Kirkuk, Iraq, on Feb. 25, 2020. The Tokyo Olympics could be impacted by the global virus. 
Ali Makram Ghareeb/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO and CDC websites.

The Tokyo Olympics are still five months away, but organizers are already thinking about the effect the coronavirus outbreak could have on the international sporting event. 

Former Canadian swimming champion Dick Pound, the longest-serving member of the International Olympic Committee, told the Associated Press a decision could be put off until late May. But Pound said that if the Olympics are affected, it's more likely to be canceled than postponed or moved elsewhere.

"You just don't postpone something on the size and scale of the Olympics," he told the AP. "There's so many moving parts, so many countries and different seasons, and competitive seasons, and television seasons. You can't just say, 'We'll do it in October.'"

Moving the Olympics from Japan is also unlikely, Pound said, due to the difficulty of gearing up a new location in such a short timespan. The AP reported that "Japan is officially spending $12.6 billion to organize the Olympics, although a national audit board says the country is spending twice that much."

As of Monday, there have been more than 77,000 cases of COVID-19 (the official name of the illness) and more than 2,600 deaths. The illness originated in Wuhan, China, and cases have been confirmed in the US, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Australia, with four deaths reported in Japan.

The Games of the XXXII Olympiad are set to take place from July 24 to Aug. 9 in Tokyo and surroundings. Japan last hosted the Summer Games in 1964, which was the first in Asia. The Winter Olympics were there in 1972 and 1998. 

In 2016, the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, played out as scheduled despite scientists' warnings about the Zika virus.