On Sunday, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that it was drafting plans to respond to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and those plans include potentially delaying the Tokyo Olympics that are slated to start on July 24th. In a press release, the IOC stated that due to the “dramatic increase in cases and new outbreaks of COVID-19 in different countries on different continents...the IOC needs to take the next step in its scenario-planning.”
The IOC stated that they will work with Tokyo’s government officials in order to effectively plan a response. However, they specifically ruled out cancelling the summer games.
Even with the games several months away, it is indeed very possible that they could be affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. While Japan has successfully kept the outbreak relatively contained within the country, the ongoing situation elsewhere, including here in the United States, is (obviously) far more dire (Ohio, where I live, just declared a stay-at-home order). If the situation remains as is for several more months, it may very well be unsafe to hold the Olympics in July. The games bring not just athletes from all over the world, but also fans. That presents a risk both to expand the epidemic in Japan, but also to export it around the world.
However, even if the situation resolves before then, the games may still need to be delayed. Not every sport has finished its qualifiers. Most relevantly here, while the USWNT has qualified for the tournament, the men’s qualifiers were postponed due to the outbreak. In addition, athletes need time to prepare and train, especially since so many are not able to do so due to the pandemic.
There were previously calls from the sporting world to postpone the games, including statements from USA Swimming and Track & Field, among others.
As of now, no decision has been made. The IOC has not even suggested potential dates for when the games would be held instead. We’ll let you know when more information develops.
Stay safe everyone.