None & # 39; Plan B & # 39; for the Olympics; Chinese presence questions

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TOKYO (AP) – The organizers of the Tokyo Olympics and the International Olympic Committee said Friday that there is no "Plan B" for the 2020 Games, which start in just over five months and have been shaken by a virus outbreak in neighboring China.

Coronavirus has infected almost 64,000 people worldwide, with almost 1,400 deaths in China, but only one in every Japan where fear is increasing with so much attention focused on the outbreak.

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"Certainly, the advice we received externally from WHO (World Health Organization) is that there is no reason for contingency plans or cancellation or game changes", John Coates, the head of a COI inspection team, said to end a two-day visit that was dominated by the virus issue.

Coates and the organizers of the Tokyo Olympics answered 11 questions at a news conference on Friday. All 11 were about the virus or the presence of Chinese athletes in 19 remaining test events in Japan, or about Chinese fans, or repeated questions seeking assurance that the games will continue as planned.

A Japanese reporter asked Tokyo chairman of the organizing committee Yoshiro Mori if, given the progress of the games, there is any “organizational change” in the way the games are played.

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“No, not at this stage. We are not thinking about such a possibility, ”said Mori, a former Japanese prime minister, speaking in Japanese.

Mori, Coates and CEO Toshiro Muto looked somber sitting at a head table, having essentially asked the same question over and over.

"We can confirm that Tokyo 2020 remains on track " Coates said in his opening statement.

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Coates A CNN reporter was asked if he was 100% confident that the Tokyo Olympics would continue as scheduled and open on July 24.

"Yes," he replied.

Coates talked positively about watching Chinese athletes closely and talked optimistically about their possible presence in Tokyo, where they would probably join a team of 600 athletes – one of the largest delegations.

"We also continue to monitor, mainly the Chinese who will come here" Coates said. "You will see that the Chinese teams are outside China. These are the athletes and officials."

He did not offer specific numbers.

Others outside the Olympic circle are not sure of the course of the virus outbreak.

"Frankly, there is no guarantee that the outbreak will end before the Olympics, because we have no scientific basis to say that," said Shigeru Omi, a former WHO regional director and specialist in infectious diseases at Japan, said Thursday.

"So there is no point in predicting a time when it can come to an end," he added. “We must assume that the virus is already spreading across Japan. People must understand that we cannot rely solely on border control to prevent the spread of the disease. "

Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, told the Associated Press in an email: "I don't think anyone can now safely predict the state of affairs in late summer."

"A little word of caution," he added. “Flu is considered a winter infection in the northern hemisphere. But when we found a new strain in 2009-10 – a pandemic strain or swine flu – we saw cases in the summer months. "

This is not particularly good news, where many talk about the hot and humid climate Tokyo summer taking its toll.

The AP requested, but an interview with Dr. Richard Budgett, the COIMedical and scientific director who was at the Tokyo for meetings.

The dynamic growth of the Olympics makes any change of schedule difficult.

About 73% of COIThe $ 5.7 billion revenue in a four-year Olympic cycle comes from the broadcast rights of networks like NBC and NHK in Japan. Withdrawing the Olympics back for two months would conflict in North America with a plate full of sports broadcasts: NFL, NBA, baseball and college football.

There is also the question of millions of tickets sold, flights and hotels booked and $ 3 billion in local sponsorships sold in Japan with advertisers expecting some results for their expenses.

A reporter for the Chinese news agency Xinhua asked if Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba – one of the main Olympic sponsors – would be free to attend the Olympics, despite being from one of the two provinces and having been the most affected by the attacks. virus.

"It depends on where he is on vacation before he comes here" Coates he said, telling one of the few jokes of the night. "Whoever you are, you must comply with the rules of the Japanese (immigration) authorities."

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