Toshiro Muto ‘seriously worried’ about spread of virus with 170 days to go

A senior Olympic official in Japan has warned that the coronavirus outbreak could “throw cold water” on preparations for Tokyo 2020, although organisers insist that there are no plans to cancel the Games.

Toshiro Muto, the chief executive of the Tokyo Olympic organising committee, said he was concerned about the impact the spread of the virus was having in the run-up to the Olympics, which are due to open in 170 days.

“I am seriously worried that the spread of the infectious disease could throw cold water on the momentum toward the Games,” Muto said during a meeting in Tokyo with officials from the International Paralympic Committee. “I hope that it will be stamped out as soon as possible.”

Muto’s concerns were echoed by Saburo Kawabuchi, the mayor of the athletes’ village, where 11,000 competitors will stay during the Games.

“I truly hope that the infectious disease will die down somehow so that we will be able to operate the Paralympics and Olympics smoothly,” he said. “In the worst case we will do our utmost for the athletes so that they will be able to concentrate on performing their best.”

The coronavirus outbreak, which has killed 490 people in mainland China and infected more than 23,000, has disrupted several qualifying events that were due to be held in the country, including those for women’s football and basketball, boxing and badminton.

There have been no deaths from the virus in Japan, but it has the largest number of infections – 33 – outside China. On Wednesday, 10 passengers onboard a luxury cruise liner off the Japanese port of Yokohama tested positive for the illness, forcing health authorities to place all 3,700 passengers and crew in quarantine for 14 days.

Craig Spence, a spokesman for the Paralympic committee, said: “We have full confidence that the relevant authorities, in particular here in Japan and the World Health Organization, will take all the necessary measures to address the situation.”

But Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike, has suggested that failure to contain the outbreak could affect the Games. “We must firmly tackle the new coronavirus to contain it, or we are going to regret it,” she said last week.

Demand for the 7.8m Olympics tickets is high, with applications exceeding supply by at least 10 times. About 4.5m tickets have been distributed domestically via a lottery.