Coronavirus Japan Update: IOC Has 'Three Months' to Make Decision on Whether to Cancel Tokyo 2020 Olympics

The longest-serving member of the International Olympic Committee has waned that the organizers of the Tokyo Olympics have three months to decide the fate of the event amid the outbreak of coronavirus.

Dick Pound, who has been an IOC member since 1978, suggested a decision on whether the 2020 Olympics would go ahead may not be taken until the end of May.

"A lot of things have to start happening," he was quoted as saying by the Associated Press. "You've got to start ramping up your security, your food, the Olympic Village, the hotels, the media folks will be in there building their studios.

Pound 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," he added 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," Pound said.

The 2020 Olympics are scheduled to be held in Tokyo between July 24 and August 9, with approximately 15,000 athletes due in Japan for the Olympics and the Paralympic Games, which begin on August 25.

Over 2,600 people have been killed by the virus 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, Taiwan, Australia and the U.K.

Coronavirus, COVID-19, Coronavirus map, Statista
This infographic shows the countries that have been reported cases of coronavirus as of Tuesday, February 25. Statista

South Korea now has the second-highest number of coronavirus cases in the world with 977, which included 10 fatalities.

Japan, the host nation of this summer Olympics, has reported four deaths among 850 cases, 691 of which were on a cruise ship docked in Yokohama.

Outbreaks have also been reported in Italy and Iran. The former reported 229 cases on Monday—the second-highest tally of any country outside China—with seven deaths and authorities implemented drastic measures to contain the epidemic in the north of the country.

Iran, meanwhile, has reported 15 deaths and 61 cases.

Last week, the IOC told Newsweek it remained hopeful the Games would go ahead as planned.

"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."

Despite the IOC's optimism, a number of qualifying events have been either called off or postponed due to the virus outbreak.

The women's Olympic soccer qualifying matches for Australia, Taiwan, Thailand and China were among the events canceled, as were the World Indoor Athletics Championships and the Chinese Formula 1 Grand Prix, which were scheduled over the next two months.

On Sunday, four games were called off in Serie A, Italy's top-flight soccer league.

Japan's J-League has postponed all scheduled matches until March 15, while baseball team Yomiuri Giants announced on Tuesday they will play two pre-season games behind closed doors because of the virus.

Last week, organizers of the annual Tokyo Marathon, scheduled for March 1, confirmed the race was only open to elite marathon runners, and not to the general public as usual.

Meanwhile, the start of Korea's K-League 2020 soccer season was also postponed indefinitely.

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, even if the U.S. and another 65 countries boycotted the 1980 Moscow games, with the Soviet Union returning 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 went ahead as planned.

However, a number of high-profile athletes—including U.S. cyclist Tejay van Garderen, golfers Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy and tennis stars Milos Raonic, Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova—opted not to attend the Games.

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