Tokyo Paralympics wheelchair rugby test event called off

By STEPHEN WADE 04 March 2020, 12:00AM

TOKYO (AP) — A wheelchair rugby test event for the Tokyo Paralympics was called off on Tuesday because of the virus outbreak.

The Japan wheelchair rugby championships, which doubled as the test event, were to take place on March 12-15 in Tokyo.

But the Japan Para Sports Association and the International Wheelchair Rugby Federation canceled the event in line with Japan government policy discouraging large-crowd events this month in a move aimed at stemming the spread of the virus.

Tokyo Paralympics organizers said in a statement they would hold a wheelchair rugby test event in April “in some form” without any overseas teams.

Tokyo Games organizers have 17 test events remaining on their schedule. The last one is on May 8. Most are small events featuring only local athletes. The most significant is a gymnastics test event on April 4-6 that is expected to have non-Japanese competing.

Tokyo Games organizers and the International Olympic Committee say the games will go ahead as planned from July 24, but each passing day sees events canceled and puts the Olympics in jeopardy.

Former IOC vice president Dick Pound told the Associated Press in an interview last week that a decision about the Olympics probably has to be made by late May.

“A lot of things have to start happening," Pound said. “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.

“In and around that time, I’d say folks are going to have to ask: ‘Is this under sufficient control that we can be confident about going to Tokyo, or not?’”

The Olympics have been canceled only three times, all during wartime.

Kevan Gosper, who like Pound is a former IOC vice president, also said cancellation was feasible.

“For the first time we've got to think seriously that we've only got a two-to-three-month window (to decide) if we can continue with the games," Gosper told Australian broadcaster ABC. “If the situation doesn't improve, or vaccines aren't available, and it continues to escalate then the only possibility is that the games will be canceled.”

The virus that started in China has been detected in at least 70 countries, with 90,000 cases and 3,100 deaths reported.

Japan's professional baseball league is playing preseason games in stadiums without fans, and the soccer J-League has suspended play until March 18. The Tokyo Marathon last Sunday was restricted to only a few hundred elite runners instead of a public party for 30,000 participants.


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By STEPHEN WADE 04 March 2020, 12:00AM

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