Australia team to ‘wait and see’ on Olympics as virus fears rise

“We really need to wait and see what happens over the next month or two months as things develop,” says chef de mission Ian Chesterman.

Ian Chesterman: "Nobody wants to cancel the Games, that's for sure." - AFP

Athletes preparing for the Tokyo Olympics will have to “wait and see” whether the Games go ahead as concerns soar about the coronavirus, the head of Australia’s team said on Thursday.

Despite reassurances from Tokyo organisers that all plans were on track, chef de mission Ian Chesterman said the ultimate decision would be made by the International Olympic Committee. “It’s a huge operation, the Olympic Games, so nobody wants to cancel the Games, that’s for sure,” Chesterman said in Sydney, after announcing members of Australia’s sailing team, which plans to head to Tokyo in late May.

Although the Olympics are scheduled to open on July 24 and the Paralympics on August 25, many teams are planning to arrive earlier as part of their final preparations. “We really need to wait and see what happens over the next month or two months as things develop,” Chesterman said.

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Sports events around the world have been hit by the outbreak, with the postponement of the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix and Ireland’s Six Nations rugby match with Italy in Dublin on March 7. Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates said “there is no call at the moment” according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

John Coates: "It's just a matter of monitoring how this plays out." - AP

 

“We have cancelled Games in the past at war time,” Coates said. “A lot of countries didn’t go for other reasons to Moscow (in 1980). A lot didn’t go to Los Angeles (1984),” he said.

“It’s just a matter of monitoring how this plays out.”

The Japanese government also recommended major events be scaled back, postponed or cancelled over the next fortnight as the virus spread. But athletes remain unshaken, according to Chesterman.

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“Remarkably, you might think, I haven’t had any phone calls... everyone’s just getting on with the job and working on the basis that their moment is going to happen on July 24,” he said.

Sailor William Phillips, who will be competing alongside his brother Sam, agreed. “At this stage I am not worried at all really. Obviously it’s not something that I can control and so we have got a fair bit on our plate just getting prepared,” Phillips told AFP.