Australia

Australian athletes urged to keep training amid concerns Olympic Games could be cancelled

View of the Olympic Rings near the new National Stadium in Kasumigaoka, Shinjuku, Tokyo. Source: AAP

Australia is urging athletes to keep training amid suggestions the coronavirus could force the cancellation of the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Australia is urging its athletes to stay calm and keep preparing for the Olympics amid concerns the coronavirus could cause the cancellation of the global sporting showpiece.

A long-serving senior member of the International Olympic Committee says if it's too dangerous to hold the Tokyo Games, they could be cancelled.

Canada's Dick Pound says any decision on whether the Olympics can proceed on 24 July could be put off until late May.

"In and around that time, I'd say folks are going to have to ask: 'Is this under sufficient control that we can be confident about going to Tokyo or not?"' Mr Pound told The Associated Press.

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If the IOC decided the Games can't go ahead as scheduled in Tokyo "you're probably looking at a cancellation", Mr Pound said.

Australia's Olympic team chef de mission Ian Chesterman said the spread of the coronavirus was a serious concern.

But there had been no indication given to Australia that the Games won't proceed.

"Full-steam ahead for our planning at the moment," Mr Chesterman told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

"Athletes around the country, our message to them is stay calm, get on with what you can control, which is your training, and plan to be attending Tokyo on July 24.

People wait in line to take pictures with the Olympic rings near the New National Stadium in Tokyo.
People wait in line to take pictures with the Olympic rings near the New National Stadium in Tokyo.
AP

"All the advice that we're getting is that the Games will take place on July 24.

"But we're taking it very seriously. We are not going to just walk through the next few months avoiding the conversation.

"We are dealing with it ... and we remain confident the Games will go ahead."

The coronavirus outbreak began in China two months ago, has infected more than 80,000 people globally and killed over 2,700, mostly in China.

The virus has gained a foothold in South Korea, the Middle East and Europe, raising fears of a pandemic.

Japan has reported four deaths.

Australia's Health Minister Greg Hunt said the nation would not put its athletes at risk.

"The Olympics are some five months roughly away so assessments will be made closer to the time," he told reporters.

"Our message to the athletes is: we will put your health and safety first.

"For the moment, just keep training because our hope is that there is a very fruitful Olympics ahead of you.

"But if there's any risk they will be the first to know."

About 11,000 athletes from around the world are expected in Tokyo for the Olympics, with a further 4,400 bound for the Paralympics opening on 25 August.

The IOC's preparations for both is currently "business as usual", Mr Pound said but he added the Games could not be rescheduled.

"You just don't postpone something on the size and scale of the Olympics," he said.

"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'."

Mr Pound conceded the Tokyo Games was largely out of the IOC's hands and depended on the course of the coronavirus.

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