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John Powers

Is it possible the Olympics will be canceled because of the coronavirus?

A decision to cancel the Games likely would need to be made by late May since the Olympic Village opens on July 14.PHILIP FONG/AFP via Getty Images

While it’s impossible to know how long the coronavirus will last, the International Olympic Committee and the Tokyo organizers would have given themselves a couple of months more wiggle room had they scheduled this summer’s Olympics for the fall, as they did in 1964 when the Games there began on Oct. 10. Scheduling them for July 24, largely to accommodate TV, means that the decision to cancel the Games likely would need to be made by late May since the Olympic Village opens on July 14.

Since the host contract specifies that the Games must be held in 2020, a year’s postponement is out of the question. Pushing them into mid-autumn would mean a TV conflict with the baseball playoffs and the NFL and college football seasons. Moving them is all but impossible since no other city has or could build the facilities for 40 sports in a few months. And since the coronavirus has gone global, no other country would be willing to bring in 11,000 athletes from more than 200 countries (plus hundreds of thousands of foreign visitors) for a month.


The only option would be to cancel the Games, which has happened only in wartime (1916, 1940, and 1944). For now, the IOC, which has no Plan B, is encouraging athletes to keep training “with great confidence and full steam.” The more immediate issue is the torch relay, which begins in Fukushima on March 26 and will continue for 121 days and involve more than 10,000 participants in 47 prefectures. The organizers are considering downsizing the relay and limiting the number of roadside spectators.

Moving on

2018 Boston marathon women's division champion Des Linden placed fourth at the US Olympic marathon trials.Keith Bedford/Globe Staff

Molly Huddle and Emily Sisson, who were among the favorites to make the US Olympic women’s marathon team at last weekend’s Atlanta trials, opted for strategic DNFs once they fell out of contention after 20 miles along the chilly, hilly course. They’ll both have excellent chances to make the team in the 10,000 meters at the track and field trials in Eugene, Ore., in late June.


Huddle, who trains in Providence, was sixth at the distance at the Rio Games and ninth in last year’s world meet, where Sisson was 10th. Desiree Linden, who came in fourth in her bid to make her third team, briefly considered cutting her engine in the late going to save her legs for Boston next month.

“Should I just shut it down and jog in?” wondered Linden, who finished 11 seconds behind Sally Kipyego. “But it mattered to me and that’s why I came out here. I still fought all day. You’re already too far into this and it means a lot. Pull your head out of your [expletive] and go.”

Galen Rupp, who joined Frank Shorter (1972 and 1976) as the only man to win two trials, was the only member of the six 2016 qualifiers to make the squad. Meb Keflezighi and Shalane Flanagan have retired, Amy Cragg withdrew with an illness, and Jared Ward, who was sixth in Rio, came in 27th.

Closing in

The first set of Olympic rowing trials at Chula Vista, Calif., produced two potential team members in Tracy Eisser and Kristine O’Brien, who won the women’s pair ahead of Megan Kalmoe, Eisser’s former partner, and Gia Doonan of Rochester. If they finish in the top two at either of the spring World Cups in Italy and Switzerland, Eisser and O’Brien will earn their Tokyo tickets. The top four men’s and women’s trials boats collected automatic invitations to the camps for eights and fours. The remaining sculling trials will take place in Sarasota, Fla., in mid-March (singles and lightweight doubles) and mid-April (doubles and men’s quad plus the men’s pair). Newton native Gevvie Stone, the Rio silver medalist in the women’s single, is prepping for that event and possibly the double, where she finished fifth with Cicely Madden at last year’s world regatta. The men, who didn’t qualify for the Games in any of the sculling events or the pair, will have to earn their Tokyo invitations at the last-chance regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland, in May. The camp boats (four, eights, and the women’s quad) will be chosen by June 3 … The US baseball team for this month’s second-chance Olympic qualifier in Arizona should be stronger now that anyone not on an active major league roster can play. The Americans, who just missed earning a berth at last year’s Premier12 tournament, can get to Tokyo by winning this one. If they’re second or third they’ll advance to June’s six-team final round in Taiwan, where the winner will qualify. Red Sox hopefuls Bobby Dalbec, C.J. Chatham, and Tanner Houck, plus Noah Song (now in the Navy), were on the last qualifying squad … While Chinese distance swimmer Sun Yang has been slapped with an all-but-career-ending eight-year ban, his results from last year’s world meet, where he won the 200 and 400 freestyles, won’t be affected because he didn’t test positive there. The 28-year-old Sun, a three-time Olympic gold medalist whose rivals long have suspected him of doping, was punished after his security guard smashed his blood samples with a hammer at the instruction of Sun’s mother. Sun, who swears he’s innocent, will appeal to the Swiss Federal Court … The US women’s track cyclists, who returned from Rio with a brace of silver medals four years ago, figure to win a gold after Jennifer Valente, Chloe Dygert, Emma White, and Lily Williams won the team pursuit at the recent world championships in Berlin. The men, who sent only four competitors, got a seventh from Gavin Hoover in omnium … The US Olympic table tennis team has an intriguing age spread — Wang Huijing and Liu Juan on the women’s team are 39 and 35, while Kanak Jha and Nikhil Kumar on the men’s squad are 19 and 17. Zhou Xin (31) and top medal hope Lily Zhang (23) make the average age 27 … The surfing event at the 2024 Games will indeed be held in Tahiti, 9,420 miles from Paris in French Polynesia. While there were several suitable sites on the Atlantic in the southwest section of France (most notably Biarritz, which hosted the 2017 world championships), the waves at Teahupo’o are among the heaviest on the planet. The distance from the host city will be the greatest ever for an Olympic event, 67 miles longer than the gap between Melbourne and Stockholm in 1956, when the equestrian competition had to be moved to Sweden because of Australian quarantine regulations.


Material from Olympic committees, sports federations, interviews, and wire services was used in this report.



John Powers can be reached at john.powers@globe.com.