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Will Games happen?

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Most people in Tokyo don’t believe they will start as scheduled as coronavirus continues to spread

Local organisers and the International Olympic Committee still insist the 2020 Games will go ahead as planned in Tokyo but the Japanese people feel otherwise.

Nearly 70 percent of those surveyed do not expect the Tokyo Olympics and the Paralympics to be held as scheduled due to the new coronavirus outbreak, according to a Kyodo News poll yesterday.

The survey showed 24.5 percent expect to see the Tokyo Games take place from July 24 to August 9 as planned while 69.9 percent do not.

About 11 000 athletes are expected to participate in the Games while the Paralympics are due to start on August 25.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Saturday that Japan would continue to make preparations for the Tokyo Games as scheduled despite the coronavirus pandemic bringing global sport to a standstill.

John Coates, an IOC vice-president and chairman of the IOC’s co-ordination commission for Tokyo, said the IOC “didn’t recognise any dates” that long-serving IOC member Dick Pound suggested would be a deadline for postponing the Games.

Canadian Pound, an IOC member since 1978, said a decision would need to be made two months before the start in Tokyo.

“It’s all proceeding to start on the 24th of July,” Australian Olympic chief Coates told the media.

“It’s never been the IOC’s position. It was Dick’s idea. There is four months to go.”

Coates will go into quarantine after flying back to Australia from Europe.

The major sports leagues in the United States are facing a longer break due to the virus than initially hoped after the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) authority updated its advice.

In the next eight weeks events with more than 50 people are recommended to be cancelled or postponed, a time period which long overruns the declared suspensions in ice hockey (NHL), football (MLS) and the start of the baseball (MLB) season.

Basketball’s NBA did not set an initial date on its return to action.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro labelled cancellations in sport due to the pandemic “hysteria” in an interview with CNN Brazil.

“If you forbid football and other things, that causes hysteria. Banning this and that will not slow the spread,” he said.

The Brazilian football federation CBF, however, decided to suspend all national competitions from yesterday until further notice.

“We know about the responsibility of football in the fight against the spread of the Covid-19 in Brazil and will take this responsibility seriously,” CBF president Rogerio Caboclo said.

The South American confederation CONMEBOL has also postponed fixtures in the Copa Libertadores and March 26-31 start of World Cup qualifying.

Olympic qualification for boxers meanwhile is set to continue behind closed doors in London yesterday after starting with fans over the weekend.

There are 342 athletes in the British capital fighting for 77 spots at the Tokyo Games which local organisers and the International Olympic committee still insist will start as planned on July 24.

European football governing body Uefa is holding a video conference today which is expected to postpone Euro 2020 while the Champions League and virtually every major domestic competition is currently suspended.

Germany’s football league (DFL) is expected to confirm the suspension of the Bundesliga at a meeting while the country’s handball league has reported the first known case of the virus.

Danish national player Mads Mensah has tested positive, his Rhine-Neckar Lions club said yesterday.

In Formula 1, the first four races of the season have been postponed with organisers also admitting the next two races in the Netherlands (May 3) and Spain (May 10) are doubtful.

dpa