It's the nightmare scenario Tokyo 2020 organisers dare not contemplate – and for which they can offer no guarantees.
As calls for this summer’s Olympics in Japan to be postponed grew from background murmurs to a full-blown chorus, Indian table tennis star Sharath Kamal delivered an unplayable serve to the host nation.
What happens if a single person – just one – contracts the coronavirus plague in the athletes’ village, where more than 17,000 competitors and team officials will rub shoulders and form a global sporting colony?
Kamal, a four-times Commonwealth Games gold medallist, will turn 38 a fortnight before the scheduled start of play in Tokyo on July 24.
He said: “As an athlete, I obviously want the Olympics to happen but it should not happen (in July).
“The epicentre of the virus will keep changing – first it was China, now it is Italy and Iran, too, is badly affected in Asia.
“I don’t see the scenario being safe for the Olympics to start on time.
“Everyone is talking about social distancing but it is one thing which won’t be possible at the Olympics. Thousands of athletes would be staying in the same village.”
With training facilities around the world under lockdown, to arrest the alarming spread of Covid-19, the pandemic has brought sport to a halt almost worldwide.
International borders are sealed, and with more than 13,000 people already killed by the bug since it surfaced in China three months ago, calls from athletes and national federations to defer Tokyo 2020 have intensified over the last 48 hours.
Serbia and Croatia joined the growing chorus opposing the International Olympic Committee’s plans to proceed on schedule.
Vanja Udovicic, president of Serbia’s Olympic body, warned: “Japan has invested a lot of resources into the Olympics and they are adamant that the Games should go ahead, but that defies common sense.
“We cannot support it because human lives come first.”
His Croatian counterpart, Zlatko Matesa, said it was “impossible” to proceed with the Olympics under the current circumstances.
Matesa said: “No one wants the Games postponed but I think we are close to such a scenario as it seems to be the only option. Sports has come to a halt in all of Europe and no one knows when it will resume.
“Sport is not an issue now as competing has become impossible. I believe it is impossible for the Games to go ahead as scheduled and in my opinion they should and will be postponed for a few months. It won’t be a dramatic delay.”
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