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VERIFY: 2020 Olympics scheduled to go on as planned despite coronavirus rumors

Amid the outbreak that started in China, the VERIFY team has found false rumors circulating on Japanese social media about the cancellation of this year's games.

A headline from Japanese pop culture blog “Buzzap!” confused many readers, who thought it meant that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics were being cancelled because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Soon enough, the rumor surrounding the cancellation of this year’s summer games spread onto Twitter and other social media around the world. 

So what’s really happening to the Olympics? Is there a risk they don’t happen?

THE QUESTION

Is the International Olympic Committee cancelling the 2020 Tokyo Olympics?

THE ANSWER

No, the International Olympic Committee confirmed to The Associated Press that they have “never discussed cancelling the games.”

WHAT WE FOUND

The claim is believed to have first surfaced after the “Buzzap!” article reported on a meeting between the IOC and the World Health Organization. 

The IOC told the AP, “It is normal practice for the IOC to collaborate with all the main UN agencies, as necessary, in the lead up to the games and this naturally includes the WHO.”

In fact, the Tokyo Olympics Twitter account posted that the Olympics are a mere 175 days away just yesterday. Neither Tokyo 2020 nor the International Olympic Committee have suggested cancelling, postponing or moving the Olympics on their websites or social media accounts.

Rumors regarding the cancellation of the Tokyo games gained traction when Japanese Twitter users began using the hashtag “#東京オリンピック中止” which roughly translates to “#TokyoOlympicsCancelled”. 

This rumor did not arise in a vacuum. The cancellation or movement of several international sporting events, including Olympic qualifiers, has made headlines in recent days.

Most notably, this included an alpine skiing test event in China for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. The FIS, who are the international governing body for skiing, said in a statement that the races were cancelled because of concerns for the athletes’ health.

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An Olympic qualifying boxing event scheduled to take place in Wuhan in February was moved to Jordan. The IOC said the event was moved because of the coronavirus outbreak in the city.

The movement or cancellation of these events have no baring on the future of the 2020 Olympics themselves. 

The WHO has reported Japan has had more than 10 cases of the coronavirus thus far but no deaths.

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Credit: AP
A poster promoting the Tokyo 2020 Olympics is posted next a train door as a commuter wearing a mask looks at his phone in a train, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, in Tokyo. Tokyo Olympic organizers are trying to shoot down rumors that this summer's games might be cancelled or postponed because of the spread of a new virus. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)