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World Athletics chief Coe says: 'We'll be in Tokyo'

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Monaco (AFP)

As the coronavirus pandemic sweeps the world, Tokyo Olympics organisers received a boost Thursday with World Athletics president Sebastian Coe's assumption that track and field would take place at the Games.

There is growing concern that the Tokyo Games, scheduled for July 24-August 9, will be either postponed or even cancelled as the outbreak of COVID-19 spreads.

A multitude of sporting events have been either cancelled or postponed as public health authorities worldwide move to contain the virus, of which there have been more than 127,000 cases recorded in 115 countries and territories, killing 4,687 people, according to an AFP tally.

World Athletics had already been forced to postpone the world indoor championships in the Chinese city of Nanjing until March 2021. The world half-marathon champs in Poland have been pushed back to October and a number of marathons across the world have been cancelled.

"On the broader picture of what does the remaining element of the season look like, it will be a challenge for everybody," Coe told AFP in an interview in Monaco.

"We are working on the assumption that we will be in Tokyo where our sport will be able to flourish.

"We are planning to be in Tokyo. There are no contingencies."

Coe, who was chairman of the organising committee of the 2012 London Olympics, added that World Athletics were "clearly monitoring the situation by the hour".

"We have to monitor and have to deal with the situations in real time and that has taken up a lot of our thinking space and that of our member federations.

"This has posed challenges almost wherever you look in our sport."

- More opportunities -

But Coe, a two-time Olympic 1500m gold medallist for Britain, played down the wider effect that the cancellation of track and field meets might have on potential qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics.

"I'm not sanguine or particularly cavalier about the situation, but our sport is in better shape than most because we have many more opportunities for our athletes to qualify," he told AFP.

"We also have a qualification process that has now been up and running for 10 months so many athletes are already qualified.

"Where we identify athletes that are facing particular difficulties, maybe in a particular part of the world, then there are things we can do to help."

Asked whether he could envisage the Olympics going ahead, but with no spectators, Coe refused to be drawn.

"I don't want to speculate," said the Briton, who is a member of the Tokyo Olympics Games Coordination Commission.

"At the moment, it's important our sport supports the International Olympic Committee, the public authorities in Japan and the local organising committee there.

"Our proposition is a very simple one and it is 'We'll be in Tokyo'."

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