Health, safety of Canadian Olympic team top priority for COC amid coronavirus outbreak

In response to serious concerns from Tokyo Olympic organizers about the spread of coronavirus and its potential impact on the July event, the Canadian Olympic Committee remains confident the Summer Games will be safe.

'We are in constant communication with IOC' 6 months ahead of Tokyo Games

The Canadian Olympic Committee says it is in regular contact with the International Olympic Committee about the coronavirus outbreak in China and remains confident "every possible precaution will be assessed to ensure that the Games" this summer in Tokyo are held safely. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press/File)

The Canadian Olympic Committee remains confident the Tokyo Olympics will be safe, despite expressed concerns of Games organizers about the spread of coronavirus and its potential impact on the July event.

"The health and safety of our entire Canadian Olympic Team is always our first priority," the COC said in an emailed statement to CBC Sports on Wednesday. "We are in constant communication with the IOC and remain confident every possible precaution will be assessed to ensure that the Games are held safely."

More than 24,300 cases of the virus and 490 deaths have been recorded in China, according to BBC Sport. Ten others aboard a cruise ship off the coast of Japan have tested positive for coronavirus and been taken ashore to hospital.

Several sporting events in China have been cancelled or postponed recently, including the World Athletics Indoor Championships and Chinese domestic football season.

A World Cup soccer qualifying game in China against Maldives is scheduled for March 26, and the China Open golf tournament, part of the European Tour, on April 23-26 in Shenzhen.

The biggest upcoming event in China is the Formula One race in Shanghai on April 19, which draws large crowds both for the race and for practice and qualifying.

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No plans to cancel, postpone Olympics

"We are extremely worried in the sense that the spread of the infectious virus could pour cold water on momentum for the Games," Tokyo organizing committee chief executive Toshiro Muto told BBC.

Women's soccer and women's basketball games were moved to Australia and Serbia. The soccer games had already previously moved from Wuhan, at the centre of the outbreak, to Nanjing. Boxing tournaments for the Asia and Oceania regions will be held in Jordan in March.

The international ski federation cancelled the first World Cup races scheduled for the mountain venue where the sport will be held during the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

In alpine skiing, a men's downhill had been scheduled for Feb. 15 in Yanqing to start a two-race weekend.

Tokyo organizers and the International Olympic Committee have said there are no plans to cancel or postpone the Olympics. 

Earlier this week, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe brushed aside worries of the coronavirus outbreak, saying he would work hard to minimize any impact on the Games, which open July 24.

'Preparations for Tokyo 2020 continue as planned'

The World Health Organization declared the outbreak as a global health emergency, insisting it did not yet constitute a "pandemic" or worldwide spread of a new disease.

"Countermeasures against infectious diseases constitute an important part of Tokyo 2020's plans to host a safe and secure Games," an IOC spokesperson told BBC.

"Preparations for Tokyo 2020 continue as planned and we look forward to returning for the next Project Review in February."

The coronavirus family includes the common cold but also more severe illnesses. It causes cold- and flu-like symptoms, and in more severe cases, shortness of breath and pneumonia. The virus is thought to have spread to people from wild animals sold at a market in Wuhan, a city of 11 million people which is now in lockdown.

With files from The Associated Press, The Canadian Press