While the inevitable arrival of coronavirus in the U.S. has increased ammunition sales, along with food and survival gear, the rapid spread of the virus may postpone, or even cancel, the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, which are currently slated for July 24 to August 9 in Tokyo, Japan.
Coronavirus has spread to over 100 countries and claimed nearly 4,000 lives so far since the beginning of the outbreak in China. Japan has experienced 530 cases and 9 deaths in total. There are 624 total cases reported in the United States thus far, with 22 deaths.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) created a joint task force in February to address the coronavirus situation. Members of the task force include the IOC, Tokyo 2020 Games officials, the Tokyo municipal government, the government of Japan and the World Health Organization (WHO).
In a statement on Tuesday, March 3, the IOC Executive Board "praised the great unity and solidarity of the athletes, National Olympic Committees, International Federations and governments. It welcomed their close collaboration and flexibility with regard to the preparations for the Games, and particularly the qualification events. All stakeholders continue to work closely together to address the challenges of the coronavirus."
The final phases of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team qualification trials have continued for the last few weeks. But at least for the near future, it appears the U.S. team will only be competing stateside. On Monday, March 9, USA Shooting released a memorandum regarding the priority of the health and well-being of all U.S. shooting athletes during the coronavirus issue.
"After careful consideration and the presentation of information that we have been able to establish, USA Shooting has come to the decision to not attend the World Cup in New Deli, India, scheduled for March 2020. Additionally, the Olympic Test Event scheduled to take place in Tokyo, Japan, April 15 is now cancelled. Our philosophy of athlete-centricity is at the core foundation of our existence. We will continue to monitor the situation and plan forward in preparation for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games."
The statement also shared the names of the organizations that USA Shooting has been using to monitor the situation, including the WHO, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), IOC, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee.
As for the situation in Japan, with its proximity to China where the coronavirus outbreak began, officials are in uncharted territory. The Olympic Games have never been canceled or postponed during peacetime. Official Japanese government policy is discouraging large-crowd events for the near future, with some events being canceled already, or held without fans like the 2020 Tokyo Marathon, which saw runners competing on empty streets.
On March 3, Japan's Olympic Games Minister, Seiko Hashimoto, said, "We are doing all we can to ensure that the Games go ahead as planned," but she also mentioned the possibility of postponement. Later on, IOC President Thomas Bach said his organisation "remains very confident with regard to the success of the Games in Tokyo."
Confused? So were we. Here is how it boils down—the games could be postponed a few months, or even a year—theoretically. In her aforementioned statement, Hashimoto said the contract signed by the IOC, Japanese officials and others states "the IOC has the right to cancel the Games only if they could not be held in 2020. This could be taken to mean the games could be postponed until later this year."
However, Clause 66 of the Tokyo 2020 host city contract (under the "Termination" heading) gives the IOC authority to withdraw the Games in the event of war, civil disorder, boycott, and basically anything that threatens the safety of participants. The contract is silent on the issue of postponing the Games. So, the IOC is really in the driver's seat, but surely the group will be calling on the expert advice of the WHO and the Japanese government.
There are about 11,000 athletes planning to go to Tokyo for the 2020 Olympic Games, competing in 28 sports. You can count on at least that same number of media attending as well. About 4.5 million tickets have already been sold.
Since the modern Olympic Games began in 1896 they have never been called off for disease outbreak. Only the two World Wars have canceled the Summer Games: World War I in 1916, World War II in 1940 and 1944, as well as the two Winter Olympics that were canceled in 1940 and 1944.
With so much at stake and the worldwide coronavirus crisis evolving daily, for the time being it's not very likely there will be any announcements from the IOC or other authorities regarding a delay or cancellation of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Be sure to subscribe to the free SSUSA Insider newsletter for the latest shooting sports news, including our coverage leading up to the 2020 Olympic Games.
Lead photo courtesy of SCIENTIFICANIMATIONS.COM.