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Experts foresee Tokyo Games without spectators if virus lingers

13 March 2020 07:15

TOKYO. KAZINFORM As Japan's sports world continues to battle with the coronavirus outbreak, experts are starting to question the likelihood of the Tokyo Olympics being held under normal conditions when the games kick off in less than 150 days.

The pneumonia-causing virus has prompted Nippon Professional Baseball to delay the start of its season, the J-League to extend its suspension of soccer matches, and the 15-day Spring Grand Sumo Tournament in Osaka to be held without spectators -- an option that is appearing more feasible than outright cancellation of the games given the economic stakes, Kyodo reports.

In a report released last Friday, SMBC Nikko Securities Inc. estimated that cancellation of the Tokyo Olympics would reduce Japan's annual gross domestic product growth by 1.4 percent.

The country's economy is already weakening from a plunge in tourism, dampened domestic consumption, and cancellation of large-scale sports and cultural events nationwide throughout March.

The International Olympic Committee and Tokyo Games organizers remain adamant that the July 24 to Aug. 9 Olympics will be held as scheduled in the Japanese capital.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga reiterated the government's position Thursday after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

But the enduring threat of the sudden viral outbreak has some predicting the games could be held behind closed doors.

«There is no canceling an investment of 3 trillion yen (about $28 billion). What can be considered is holding the games without spectators,» said Munehiko Harada, a professor at Waseda University's Faculty of Faculty of Sport Sciences.

Harada speculated that the scale of the games might be reduced, though, if organizers resolved to remove contact sports like judo and wrestling from this summer's program to reduce the risk of infection.

Keywords: Sport,