World athletics chief Sebastian Coe admitted on Thursday that the Tokyo Olympics could be moved to later in the year by the coronavirus outbreak, but said it was too early to make a definitive decision.
Olympic bosses acknowledged on Wednesday there was no “ideal” solution as a growing number of athletes expressed concern. International Olympic Committee chairman Thomas Bach said earlier this week that starting on schedule on July 24 remained the organisation’s goal.
But Coe, who is a member of the Tokyo Olympics Games Coordination Commission, conceded in an interview with the BBC that a delay was possible.
“That is possible, anything is possible at the moment,” said Coe when asked whether the Games could be postponed to September or October.
“But I think the position that sport has certainly taken, and it was certainly the temperature of the room in the conversation I had the other day with the IOC and our other federations, is that nobody is saying we will be going to the Games come what may.
“But it isn’t a decision that has to be made at this moment.” Coe said postponing the Games until 2021 could present problems.
“That seems on the surface of it an easy proposition, but member federations actually avoid Olympic years often to have their world championships,” he said.
Coe also said ensuring a level playing field for athletes during their Olympic preparations may not be possible but it is a challenge World Athletics will strive to overcome.
“Recent evidence suggests China seems to be pulling out of this but if you’re living in Europe, you’re an Italian distance runner and you’re confined to your house, that’s a massive challenge,” Coe told The Times newspaper in an interview.
“Our sport has always been about fairness and a level playing field so we shouldn’t feel ashamed to set that as our ambition. The reality is that may not be possible in every case but we want to do what we can to drill down on that.
“Some are not able to train properly, some are not able to access public tracks or indoor facilities and we’re working to try and help them find these facilities.”
Coe said the problem faced by the Tokyo Games was bigger than the mass boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics.
“I lived through Moscow and that was a crisis … This has probably exercised more thinking time and expended more effort for federations than anything I can remember,” Coe added. “We’re doing everything we possibly can to get our sport and our athletes into the best possible shape through a challenging time and get to an Olympic Games.”