Until now the biggest threat to the Olympic Games has been athlete doping. The new coronavirus pandemic has changed that, raising serious doubt whether Tokyo 2020 can go ahead at all in July and August. Yet the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is resisting calls to cancel. If the Games do go ahead, they will not just be an organisational nightmare of a revolving door between quarantine and competition for thousands of athletes. Ironically, anti-infection precautions will also disrupt crucial pre-competition drug testing, making the Tokyo Olympics vulnerable to drug cheats. So what can the IOC be thinking in planning to proceed? According to Australian Olympics boss Matt Carroll, the IOC does not live in a bubble. Speaking after a worldwide phone hook-up with the IOC, he insisted athletes’ health is paramount. But consider the logistical challenge of delivering competitors safely to Tokyo, possibly using charter planes for isolation, setting up quarantined base camps so athletes can continue training with minimal risk of infection, and minimising time spent in the Olympic Village. UK and US sports bodies call for Tokyo Olympics cancellation It all reinforces the question whether it is time to cancel or at least postpone the Games, if the latter is practicable. True, as IOC president Thomas Bach has pointed out, with four months to go there is no rush. But other major sporting events have been cancelled, albeit at shorter notice. And athletes deserve to be relieved of the agony of uncertainty. A sporting festival is not what the world needs when it is fighting a deadly pandemic. Health and safety come first. It does not help that the Japanese government has been under fire for its slow response to the coronavirus. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may have invested a lot of political capital in hosting a successful Games, with elections due before October next year. But by pressing on now Japan risks late cancellation or withdrawals among nations and competitors. If the Games go ahead Tokyo will become one of the very few cities to host the Summer Olympics at least twice. This newspaper argued recently that it may be better to put that ambition on hold. The spread of the pandemic has been so devastating that it can be argued there remains little choice. It is better to be safe than sorry and cancel now rather than jeopardise hopes of a successful Games. Purchase the China AI Report 2020 brought to you by SCMP Research and enjoy a 20% discount (original price US$400). This 60-page all new intelligence report gives you first-hand insights and analysis into the latest industry developments and intelligence about China AI. Get exclusive access to our webinars for continuous learning, and interact with China AI executives in live Q&A. Offer valid until 31 March 2020.