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Tokyo 2020 chiefs vow Olympics will go ahead, attempting to calm coronavirus fears

By John Skilbeck
Olympic Games flag

Tokyo, February 13: Tokyo Olympics organisers have promised a "calm" response to the coronavirus epidemic and remain confident the Games will go ahead as planned.

Over 1,350 deaths have occurred in China, and a major spike in recorded cases on Wednesday has caused fresh concern over the spread of the virus.

A Japanese cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, has been quarantined because of the large number of confirmed cases on board, with over 200 passengers reported to be infected.

Tokyo Olympics boss blasts 'irresponsible rumours' over virus shutdown

Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori said: "Regarding the coronavirus which started in Hubei province in China, there were irresponsible rumours. I would like to clearly reiterate that cancellation or postponement of the Tokyo Games are not being considered."

Mori added: "The [Japanese] government has also set up a task force for new coronavirus infectious diseases at the prime minister's office and they are implementing measures such as border control. The organising committee will deal [with the coronavirus] calmly in co-operation with the government."

International Olympic Committee co-ordination commission chairman John Coates said at the same event in Tokyo: "We have unexpected issues to deal with, for example the coronavirus outbreak is one event."

He said the objective ahead of the Olympics and Paralympics was "to ensure that all of the athletes and all of the people who come to Japan for the Games are not going to be affected and that all the necessary precautions are being taken".

Saburo Kawabuchi, who is mayor of the Olympic Village, attempted to calm fears surrounding the spread of the coronavirus and its possible impact on the Games.

He said: "As far as we know from various sources, we have heard that the virus is not stronger than influenza. Because the virus is weak against moisture and heat, Japan has the best season to kill the rainy season virus."

A number of major sporting events in China have been cancelled or postponed because of the coronavirus, including the Formula One Chinese Grand Prix and the athletics World Indoor Championships.

On Thursday, World Rugby announced it had rescheduled the Hong Kong and Singapore legs of the World Rugby Sevens Series because of the outbreak.

Both had been due to take place in April but World Rugby said the Singapore event would now take place on October 10-11, and the Hong Kong tournament would be played on October 16-18.

"The health and safety of our players, fans and everyone working on the event is always our highest priority," World Rugby said in a statement.

"This prudent decision has been taken in order to help protect the global rugby community and the wider public and was taken based on the World Health Organization and relevant public authority travel and health guidelines."

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Story first published: Thursday, February 13, 2020, 15:10 [IST]
Other articles published on Feb 13, 2020
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