Updated Mar 21, 2020 - Health

Coronavirus: Norway, Brazil join U.S. teams in push for postponement of Tokyo Olympics

Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Organizing Committee President Yoshiro Mori watches as Olympic gold medalists Tadahiro Nomura and Saori Yoshida hold the Olympic torch on March 20 in Matsushima, Miyagi, Japan. Photo: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

Norway and Brazil's Olympic committees — alongside the USA Swimming and Track and Field teams — are joining the call for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo to be postponed, due to the novel coronavirus.

The latest: The Brazilian Olympic Committee called on Saturday for the games to be postponed until 2021, citing rising infection rates and "the consequent difficulty for athletes to maintain their best competitive level due to the need to stop training and competitions in global scale."

  • Norway: "Our clear recommendation is that the Olympic Games in Tokyo shall not take place before the COVID-19 situation is under firm control on a global scale," Norway’s national Olympic committee wrote in a Friday letter.
  • USA Track and Field: "Unfortunately, while our world class athletes are willing to push themselves to their athletic limits in pursuit of Olympic success, the likelihood that they will be able to properly train in a safe and adequate environment ... does not appear likely in the midst of this global crisis," the team said on Friday.
  • USA Swimming: "Our world class swimmers are always willing to race anyone, anytime and anywhere; however, pressing forward amidst the global health crisis this summer is not the answer," the team said on Friday.

The other side: "Of course we are considering different scenarios, but we are contrary to many other sports organizations or professional leagues in that we are four and a half months away from the Games," Thomas Bach, the president of the IOC, told the New York Times in an interview on Thursday.

  • "They are even more optimistic than we are, because most of them have postponed their events until April or the end of May. We are talking about the end of July," Bach said.

Where it stands: There are currently just over 1,000 reported cases of COVID-19 in Japan, per the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center — but thousands more in countries that would participate in the Games.

  • Taro Aso, Japan's deputy prime minister, said Wednesday that holding the Olympics in Tokyo "would not make sense" if other countries could not send their athletes, while the government's top spokesperson insisted the Games were still on, per Reuters.
  • Haruyuki Takahashi, a member of the Olympic organizing committee in Tokyo, told the WSJ last week that the most realistic option is to delay the event by a year or two, if it cannot be held this summer.

The bottom line: Public health experts say that mass shutdowns of public gatherings and social distancing may be "the only way to prevent mass death and infection," the Times reports.

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