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Olympic chiefs dismiss fears coronavirus could derail Tokyo 2020 Games

Track cycling at the Olympic Games (Image credit: Getty Images)

Organisers of the Toyko Olympics have dismissed fears that this year's Games could be affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

Last week, Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto described himself as "seriously worried" about the impact the spread of the virus could have on preparations for this summer's Olympics, which begin on July 24. 

The coronavirus broke out in Wuhan, in the Hubei province of eastern China, which is 2500km away from Tokyo in neighbouring Japan. There have been 63,922 confirmed cases, with 1,300 people known to have died as a result of the virus. On Thursday, Japan recorded its first coronavirus death, while 218 people remained quarantined off the shore of Yokohama. 

Despite the cancellation or postponement of a number of sporting events in China and Asia, including cycling's Tour of Hainan, Tokyo 2020's president, Yoshiro Mori, insisted Games remain unaffected at this stage.

"I want to state clearly that cancellation or postponement of the Tokyo Games has not been considered," Mori said at a press conference on Thursday. 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has also ruled out any concerns, according to the International Olympic Committee's coordination commission chief, John Coates. 

"Advice that we have received externally from the WHO is that there is no case for any contingency plans of cancelling the Games or moving the Games," Coates said, according to Reuters.

"We are working to ensure that all of the athletes, and all of the people who come to Japan for the games are not going to be affected, and that all the necessary precautions are being taken."

A number of sporting events in China have been cancelled or postponed, including Athletics' Indoor World Championships and the Formula 1 Grand Prix. Outside China, the Rugby Sevens events in Hong Kong and Singapore have been moved from April to October. 

In cycling, the Tour of Hainan, scheduled to run from February 23 to March 1, has been postponed, while two Chinese teams pulled out of the recent Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia. The next road race scheduled in China is the Tour of Chongming Island, a Women’s WorldTour event, in early May. 

The cycling events at Toyko 2020 get underway on July 25 with the men's road race, while the track events will take place from August 3-9. 

"I am seriously worried that the spread of the infectious disease could throw cold water on the momentum toward the Games,” Muto said last week. "I hope that it will be stamped out as soon as possible."