March 16, 2020 / 6:35 AM / 25 days ago

IOC to hold talks with sport chiefs amid coronavirus crisis

TOKYO (Reuters) - The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will hold talks with heads of international sports organisations on Tuesday in response to the coronavirus outbreak, a source close to an international federation briefed on the issue said.

A giant watch for Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games is pictured in Tokyo, Japan March 16, 2020. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

The IOC will also hold an unscheduled Executive Board meeting via teleconferencing on Tuesday to internally discuss the latest developments, another source said.

A source within the Olympic movement told Reuters no decision was expected on Tuesday by the executive board.

With less than five months to go until the scheduled start of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics on July 24, questions have been raised as to whether the Games can go ahead.

The virus, which originated in China late last year, has killed more than 6,000 people around the world and infected more than 160,000.

It has wreaked havoc on the global sporting calendar, leading to some Olympic qualification events being cancelled or postponed and concern has been rising about whether the entire Games should be scrapped or postponed.

However, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Tokyo 2020 organisers have reiterated that preparations are going on for the Games to be held as planned.

Abe told parliament on Monday he wanted the Tokyo Games to represent a world’s victory over the coronavirus pandemic, Kyodo newswire reported.

According to a telephone poll conducted by Kyodo, however, Abe’s fellow citizens are less optimistic about prospects for the Games, with 69% of respondents saying they did not think Tokyo would be able to host the gathering as planned.

Kyodo did not say how many people were questioned in the survey.

The IOC, asked about a report by Japanese public broadcaster NHK that talks on the impact of the coronavirus were scheduled for Tuesday, said they were a regular part of dialogue with stakeholders.

“Since this situation started to develop some weeks ago, the IOC is constantly updating its stakeholders on the latest developments,” the IOC said in a statement to Reuters.

“The calls are part of this regular information sharing process.”

IOC Sports Director Kit McConnell discussed changes to qualification processes with various international sporting federations last week.

The IOC had established an Implementation Group to “act quickly, where necessary, on behalf of the IOC EB (Executive Board) to approve the necessary changes to the qualification systems”, McConnell said in a letter to federations.

The letter, dated March 9, was seen by Reuters.

Changes could include the extension of qualification periods, but not beyond June 30, the re-assignment of quota allocations and the removal of certain eligibility criteria.

Slideshow (4 Images)

It is not known whether further changes to the qualification process would be discussed at the IOC Executive Board meeting.

Several qualifying events, including those for climbing, boxing, fencing and judo have been cancelled or postponed, leaving athletes in the lurch about how and when they will be able to qualify for the Olympics.

The number of coronavirus infections in Japan rose to 1,484 on Sunday, including 697 from a cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, and 14 returnees on charter flights from China. Deaths in Japan related to the virus stand at 29.

Reporting by Jack Tarrant; additional reporting by Antoni Slodkowski, Tim Kelly and Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Robert Birsel and Pritha Sarkar

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