Veteran International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound has said he would not expect the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics to go ahead if the Tokyo Olympics cannot take place next year due to lingering Covid-19 concerns.
Pound told Reuters: “Say there is a COVID problem in July and August next year in Tokyo, it is hard to imagine there is not going to be a knock-on effect in the same area five months later.”
Pound, a Canadian lawyer, is a former vice president at the IOC and head of the World Anti-Doping Agency.
The Tokyo Games are scheduled for July 23 to August 8 next year, and the Beijing Games from February 4 to 20, 2022.
The IOC and newly-reelected Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike have in the past week reiterated their commitment to hosting the Olympics in Tokyo next year. But doubts persist over the event because of uncertainty over how long the Covid-19 pandemic will last.
The IOC yesterday agreed with Senegal to postpone the 2022 Youth Olympic Games that was due to be hosted in Dakar, due to Covid-19. The Olympics governing body had an executive board meeting yesterday, and a full IOC session will take place on Friday.
Pound told Reuters that the IOC was not yet discussing moving Beijing 2022, and that the IOC session on Friday would focus on Tokyo.
IOC president Thomas Bach told media yesterday that good progress had been reported by the committee’s Tokyo Olympics coordination commission towards hosting next year’s Games, and that “multiple scenarios” were being prepared for, guided by advice from the World Health Organisation.
“We remain fully committed to celebrating Tokyo 2020 next year in July and August,” he said. “The entire IOC is following the principle we established before the postponement (in March) that the first priority is about the safety of all participants.”
The IOC wants to have spectators in attendance at the Games, he added.
Yasuhiro Yamashita, the president of Japan’s Olympic Committee, said yesterday that a successful Tokyo Olympics would put Sapporo in good stead to host the 2030 Winter Olympics, which it is hoping to bid for. Salt Lake City and Barcelona have also been mooted as early contenders for the 2030 Games.
Yamashita said he backed the current plans by Tokyo organisers for a slimmed-down Olympics, saying: “We will not gain support from Japanese citizens unless we simplify the games and focus less on flamboyancy and concentrate more on efficiency.”
In his interview with Reuters, Dick Pound also noted the possibility of growing tensions between the US and China interfering with upcoming Olympics. He pointed out that this tension was not likely to abate in the near future, as America’s rivalry with China would be in the spotlight in the run-up to this year’s US presidential election.