By Steve Keating
(Reuters) - If the postponed Tokyo Olympics do not go ahead next year due to COVID-19 then the 2022 Beijing Winter Games will likely also fall victim to the pandemic, said long-time International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound.
If there is no vaccine and countries are unable to contain the pandemic that continues to rage in different regions of the world, killing more than 580,000 people, then the IOC could once again be forced to postpone or cancel the Tokyo Olympics.
This would most likely trigger a knock-on effect taking out the Beijing Games as well, Pound said.
The Beijing Winter Olympics are scheduled for Feb. 4 to 20, 2022, just six months after the Tokyo Summer Games, which are now set to be held from July 23 to Aug. 8, 2021 after being pushed back a year by the novel coronavirus outbreak.
"Taking the political side out of it for the moment say there is a COVID problem in July and August next year in Tokyo, it is hard to imagine there is not going to be a knock-on effect in the same area five months later," Pound told Reuters in a phone interview.
The Beijing Olympics could be further complicated by a number of political showdowns, including an increasingly unstable and volatile situation in Hong Kong and an American election that could see U.S./China relations as one of the main issues.
U.S. President Donald Trump has labelled the pandemic the "China virus" and blamed the country for the outbreak that first emerged from the Chinese city of Wuhan.
For months, Trump has maintained China must be “held accountable” for failing to contain the disease.
Pound, a Canadian lawyer who has served as both an IOC vice-president and head of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), speculated that any number of scenarios could arise.
These included one where the threat is not so much of a U.S. boycott of the Games, but one where China might consider barring the U.S. from taking part if the country cannot gain control over the virus.
"At least one part of the U.S. is planning an election campaign which is all anti-China," said Pound.
"If you are a conspiracy theorist, you might say well, the WHO is strongly influenced by China and they could probably without smirking too much go to a WHO meeting, from which the U.S. will no longer be associated, and say this isn't positive health.
"There could be the largest number of cases in the world (in the U.S.) and it would be dangerous having Americans coming to China.
"That is an extreme supposition. There are all kinds of crazy things that could happen."
Pound underscored that at the moment the Tokyo Summer Olympics have the IOC's complete attention, but added that by the end of the year Beijing will also be on their radar.
"It (China) will certainly not be discussed at the next IOC session we have on Friday," said Pound. "It is mostly reports and concerns about how we are dealing with Tokyo.
"Beijing is really not on the table at the moment and I think it would be an unnecessarily complicated thing to bring that in because we simply do not know about it yet."
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Toby Davis)