March 5, 2020 / 4:17 AM / in a month

Olympics: Tokyo plans to cancel events if big quake, other disaster strikes - media

FILE PHOTO: Following the outbreak of coronavirus in Japan, a man wearing a protective face mask walks past an advertising billboard for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics near Shinjuku station in Tokyo, Japan, March 3, 2020. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

TOKYO (Reuters) - Organizers of this summer’s Tokyo Olympics have contingency plans to cancel competitions in the event of a strong earthquake or other natural disaster, the Mainichi newspaper said.

As the coronavirus spreads in Japan, and rapidly through the world, concerns have risen about whether the Olympics, set to open on July 24, can proceed at all and what fallback plans Japan has for postponement or cancellation.

Officials in Japan and at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have sought to reassure the public that the Games will go ahead as scheduled, despite the epidemic, but the Mainichi said there are event-specific plans for natural disasters that regularly strike the island nation.

Under the plans, competitions would be canceled if the venues were hit by a quake measuring an upper-6 or 7 on Japan’s intensity index, which runs to 7, the newspaper said, citing unidentified sources involved in the organizing committee.

Unlike a magnitude reading, which measures the inherent strength of a quake, intensity measures the amount of shaking felt at a given place.

Japan often experiences earthquakes, but an upper-6 is one where it is impossible to stand, windows are likely to break and most unreinforced concrete-block walls collapse.

In addition, the Mainichi said, the plans call for halting events if the authorities issue a 4 or higher on Japan’s 5-point disaster-warning system for a typhoon or other disaster.

The Tokyo 2020 press office did not respond to a request for comment.

A powerful typhoon forced the cancellation of three matches in last year’s Rugby World Cup.

Reporting by William Mallard; Editing by Robert Birsel

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