Tokyo 2020 Olympics Have 97 Percent Chance of Being Postponed, According to Bookmakers

The Tokyo Olympics will almost certainly be postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak that has paralyzed the world, according to a major bookmaker.

The games are scheduled to be held in Tokyo between July 24 and August 9 but their fate appears increasingly in doubt as the world battles to contain the virus.

European's betting exchange Betfair has shortened the price to be postponed to 3/100 as of Monday, odds which indicated the probability the Games will not go ahead as planned stands at over 97 percent.

To put the figure into context, the Olympics first became odds-on not to go ahead—which is to say the Games being postponed or held in a country other than Japan was likelier than them going ahead as planned—less than a month ago. On February 28, Irish oddsmaker Paddy Power shifted odds on a cancelation of the 2020 Olympic Games to 4/6.

Only five days ago, odds on the Games going ahead and being postponed both stood at 10/11.

"Sporting events around the world have been tumbling from the calendar in recent days, but many thought that the Olympics were far enough in the future to be untouched by the pandemic," Oddschecker spokesperson Pete Watt told Newsweek on Monday.

"However, with some governments around the world suggesting that daily life will be disrupted for up to a year, even some autumn events are beginning to fear for their existence."

With the exception of the two world wars, the Olympics have never been canceled since they began in their modern guise in 1896, but a postponement looks increasingly inevitable amid the pandemic.

At the time of writing, more than 1,100 cases of coronavirus have been reported in Japan, with 41 deaths and 235 people recovered, according to Johns Hopkins University which has been tracking the outbreak using combined data sources.

As this chart provided by Statista shows, over 15,400 people have died since the outbreak of coronavirus began in Wuhan, a city located in China's central Hubei province, late last year. There are over 353,000 cases globally, with over 100,000 recovered.

Statista Coronavirus World Map March 23, 2020
A map provided by Statista shows the number of confirmed COVID-19 coronavirus disease cases around the world as of March 23.

On Monday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe admitted the Games could be delayed in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak as the current situation "isn't adequate."

In a speech to parliament, Abe conceded for the first time the Olympics could be postponed, if they can't be held in its "complete form" due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"If that becomes difficult, we may have no option but to consider postponing the Games," he said.

That came only hours before Tokyo organizing committee chief Yoshiro Mori floated the possibility of postponing the Games, suggesting delaying the event was one of the contingency plans organizers were considering and that a decision would be made in four weeks.

The former Japanese Prime Minister warned the financial hit of postponing the Games was a major issue for both the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Tokyo's organizing body, but acknowledged organizers were aware of mounting criticism from athletes and national olympic committees.

On Sunday, Canada became the first country to warn it won't send its athletes to the Olympics, unless they are postponed by a year because of the pandemic.

"While we recognize the inherent complexities around a postponement, nothing is more important than the health and safety of our athletes and the world community," the Canadian Olympic Committee said in a statement. "This is not solely about athlete health—it is about public health."

Shortly after Canada's announcement, the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) warned its athletes to get ready for the Olympics to be held next year.

AOC chief executive Matt Carroll said the travel restrictions imposed by countries battling coronavirus would make it nigh-on impossible for Australia to assemble a squad in time.

"We have athletes based overseas, training at central locations around Australia as teams and managing their own programs," he said in a statement. "With travel and other restrictions this becomes an untenable situation."

Australia's stance was echoed by New Zealand's Olympic Committee, while Britain's sports minister Nigel Huddleston added his voice to the chorus on Monday.

"It is right that the IOC seriously considers postponing the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games," he said.

"The health and safety of athletes, sports fans and officials due to work at the Games is absolutely paramount. We would welcome the IOC making a definitive decision soon, to bring clarity to all those involved."

On Sunday, the IOC revealed it had given itself a deadline of four weeks to make a decision over the fate of the Games, in the wake of mounting pressure from athletes and national olympic committees.

"In light of the worldwide deteriorating situation [...] the executive board has today initiated the next step in the IOC's scenario-planning," the Olympics governing body said in a statement.

"These scenarios relate to modifying existing operational plans for the Games to go ahead on 24 July 2020, and also for changes to the start date of the Games."

Tokyo 2020, coronavirus
A man wearing a mask passes the logo of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games displayed on the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building on March 19. Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

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Medical advice

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Mask usage

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