March 20, 2020 / 2:39 PM / 5 days ago

Colombia adds to call for Olympics delay if coronavirus persists

BOGOTA (Reuters) - The 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo should be postponed if the coronavirus epidemic is not under control soon, the head of Colombia’s Olympic Committee said, joining a chorus which has called for the event’s suspension.

The logo of the Colombian Olympic Committee is seen in Bogota, Colombia March 19, 2020. Picture taken March 19, 2020. REUTERS/Luis Jaime Acosta

Despite suspensions of sports leagues and Olympic trials around the world, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said it does not intend to cancel the Games, set to begin July 24.

“The most prudent and of course the most respectful decision of the International Olympic Committee and of the organizers in Tokyo is to postpone the Games in case they can’t give the guarantee of risk-less participation,” Baltazar Medina, head of the Colombian Olympic Committee told Reuters late on Thursday.

“If they don’t achieve that they undoubtedly will have to be postponed,” he said.

Delaying the Games was not discussed on a recent phone call with national Olympic committees, Medina said, though it should be if the outbreak continues over the coming months.

Japan is expected to welcome 600,000 overseas spectators and athletes to the event, which has seen sponsors pump in billions of dollars and at least $12 billion spent on preparations.

The coronavirus, which emerged in China late last year, has killed more than 10,000 people worldwide.

“In my personal opinion I would say yes (it should be postponed) and I’m sure that the International Olympic Committee would do it because it’s a way of acting responsibly,” he said. “We cannot, to comply with the scheduling of some Games, put at risk the health of 10,500 athletes and all the people with them.”

If the Games go ahead on the scheduled dates, the performance of athletes is likely to have been damaged by the suspension of training, Medina said.

“In the case of the Games taking place, it could be that the competitors don’t arrive at their top technical level because they have had to interrupt their preparation process,” he said.

So far 29 Colombian athletes have qualified for the Games. Once qualifying competitions resume, the number could reach 95, Medina said.

(Corrects spelling of committee head’s name throughout, from Medida to Medina)

Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by David Gregorio

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