“A lot of things have to start happening. You’ve got to start ramping up your security, your food, the Olympic Village, the hotels. The media folks will be in there building their studios,” Pound explained.
“In and around that time, I’d say folks are going to have to ask: ‘Is this under sufficient control that we can be confident about going to Tokyo or not?’” he told AP.
The coronavirus outbreak, which began late last year, has sickened more than 80,000 people worldwide and killed over 2,700, with the bulk of cases originating in China. The outbreak has also flared up in places like South Korea, the Middle East and Europe. Earlier Tuesday, the CDC called a U.S. outbreak of the disease inevitable.
Pound reiterated that the Tokyo organizing body was consulting with the World Health Organization to decide whether the games, which are scheduled to kick off at the end of July, should continue.
He also cast doubt on the prospect of moving the games to a new location, potentially one further from the outbreak’s epicenter in Wuhan, China, citing the logistics of pulling off such a feat.
“You’re probably looking at a cancellation” if the committee decides the Tokyo event cannot go on as scheduled, he said.
“You just don’t postpone something on the size and scale of the Olympics,” Pound said. “There’s so many moving parts, so many countries and different seasons, and competitive seasons, and television seasons. You can’t just say, ‘We’ll do it in October.’”
He was similarly dubious about the prospect of moving the games elsewhere entirely or splitting them up among several locations “because there are few places in the world that could think of gearing up facilities in that short time to put something on.”
Despite the stark warning, Pound sought to allay fears the games might be scrapped, advising the more than 15,000 Olympic and Paralympic athletes planning to attend to continue training.
“As far as we all know, you’re going to be in Tokyo,” he said. “All indications are at this stage that it will be business as usual. So keep focused on your sport and be sure that the IOC is not going to send you into a pandemic situation.”
The modern Olympic games have not been axed since 1940s, during World War II. The 1940 games were also to take place in Tokyo. The 1944 games slated for London were also canceled. The games went on as planned in Brazil in 2016 despite that year’s Zika virus outbreak.