Coronavirus Japan Update: Tokyo Olympics 2020 Odds-On to Be Canceled, According to Bookmakers

The outbreak of coronavirus has reached such an extent that this summer's Olympic Games are now likelier to be canceled than to go ahead, according to a major bookmaker.

Irish oddsmaker Paddy Power has shifted odds on a cancelation of the 2020 Olympic Games to 4/6, meaning the event is odds-on to be called off or to be held in a country other than Japan.

Odds on the Games, which are scheduled to be held in Tokyo between July 24 and August 9, to go ahead as planned are 11/10.

With the exception of the two world wars, the Olympics have never been canceled since they began in their modern guise in 1896.

Even at the peak of Cold War tensions, the event proceeded as planned. In 1980, the Moscow Games were boycotted by the U.S. and another 65 countries, before the Soviet Union returned the favor four years later in Los Angeles.

The 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, were threatened by the Zika virus epidemic in the country but went ahead as planned.

Coronavirus is set to be at the top of the agenda when the Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee meets in Lausanne, Switzerland, next week.

Last week, the IOC told Newsweek it remained hopeful the Games would go ahead as planned and its stance hasn't changed.

"The preparations for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 continue as planned," it said in a statement.

"Countermeasures against infectious diseases constitute an important part of Tokyo 2020's plans to host a safe and secure Games.

"Tokyo 2020 will continue to collaborate with all relevant organizations which carefully monitor any incidence of infectious diseases and will review any countermeasures that may be necessary with all relevant organizations."

Earlier this week, the IOC's longest-serving member, Dick Pound, suggested the Olympics' governing body had three months to decide whether the Tokyo Games would go ahead as planned.

He also admitted that if the Games didn't start as scheduled, the prospect of the event being called off could be very real.

"You're probably looking at a cancellation," Pound said when asked what may happen should the coronavirus outbreak not be brought under control by this summer.

"You just don't postpone something on the size and scale of the Olympics. There's so many moving parts, so many countries and different seasons, and competitive seasons, and television seasons. You can't just say, we'll do it in October."

Over 82,000 cases have been reported worldwide—over 930 and 11 deaths in Japan alone—since the outbreak began in Wuhan, a city located in China's central Hubei province, late last year.

As this chart provided by Statista shows, the virus has since spread to more than 30 other countries, including the U.S., Canada, Japan, Taiwan, Australia and the U.K.

statista, covid-19, coronavirus cases,
A map showing worldwide cases of COVID-19. Statista

A number of qualifying events have been either canceled or postponed due to the virus outbreak, including the World Indoor Athletics Championships and the Chinese Formula 1 Grand Prix.

The first races of the Formula 1 season in Australia, Bahrain and Vietnam could also all be postponed.

In Italy, the country with the third-highest number of coronavirus cases behind China and South Korea, four games were called off in Serie A—the country's top-flight soccer league—last week.

The league has decided that the clash between Juventus and Inter scheduled for this Sunday will be played behind closed doors in Turin.

On Wednesday, it was also announced that Ireland's home game against Italy in the Six Nations rugby championship scheduled for March 7 had been postponed on the recommendation of Ireland's health minister and the National Public Health Emergency.

England is due to travel to Rome a week later on the final weekend of the tournament and the fixture could also be put in jeopardy by the outbreak, which has killed 17 people in Italy.

Meanwhile, UEFA, European's soccer governing body, remains adamant this summer's European Championships will go ahead as planned. The tournament kicks off in Rome on June 12 and for the first time in the competition's history, it will be played across 12 countries.

"UEFA is in touch with the relevant international and local authorities regarding the coronavirus and its development," a spokesperson said.

"For the moment there is no need to change anything in the planned timetable. The issue will be kept under constant scrutiny."

 Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
The logo for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games is seen in Tokyo on February 15. Charly Triballeau/AFP/Getty

About the writer

Dan Cancian is currently a reporter for Newsweek based in London, England. Prior to joining Newsweek in January 2018, he was a news and business reporter at International Business Times UK. Dan has also written for The Guardian and The Observer. 

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