Medical officers from various sports federations which run the Olympics have discussed with the World Health Organization the possibility of holding the 2020 summer Olympics without spectators.
In a conference call that took place last week, officials brought up a worst-case scenario in which the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak would threaten the health of thousands of spectators expected to fill stadiums at the games in Tokyo, Japan, the New York Times reported on Thursday. If spectators are permitted, medical officials would have to create a screening process to check fans and athletes to detect and prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The WHO’s role is “to provide rational and science-based public health guidance and recommendations,” spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told the Times. Jasarevic declined to comment specifically on the conference call.
Japan Olympic minister Seiko Hashimoto has insisted that the country will go forward with the Olympics this summer. Tokyo’s contract with the International Olympic Committee states that the IOC reserves the right to cancel the event if “the safety of participants in the Games would be seriously threatened or jeopardized for any reason whatsoever.”
Japan currently has over 1,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, and the country has closed all of its schools in response to the threat of an outbreak. The State Department currently urges American citizens to “reconsider” traveling to Japan. And on Friday, the University of Washington, which is attended by roughly 50,000 students, became the first U.S. college to shut its doors to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
Sporting events in various European countries including Italy and England have taken place without spectators as health officials struggle to contain the outbreak.