TOKYO: London would be ready to host the 2020 Olympics if the outbreak of the coronavirus forced the Games to be moved from Tokyo, Shaun Bailey, the Conservative candidate for mayor of the British capital, has said.
The flu-like virus, which has killed more than 2,000 people in China and infected over 74,000 globally, has had a major impact on the sporting calendar in Asia with a host of events being cancelled and postponed.
Tokyo organisers have set up a task force to coordinate with public health authorities on how to respond to the epidemic, while the International Olympic Committee has said it had been advised by the World Health Organization that there is no case for contingency plans to cancel or relocate the Games.
In Japan, hundreds have been infected by the virus with two deaths confirmed on the Diamond Princess cruise ship off Yokohama port, sparking concerns that the world's top sporting event may not take place.
With London having hosted the 2012 Games, Bailey said it was well placed to step in for Tokyo if needed.
"We have the infrastructure and the experience. And due to the #coronavirus outbreak, the world might need us to step up," he said on Twitter.
"London can host the #Olympics in 2020".
His comments, carried by several major Japanese media outlets, became a top trending topic on Twitter in the country with nearly 50,000 tweets on the subject.
"How dare you! Don't deprive the Olympics from Japan! In the first place, the UK didn't take any remedies for the "Diamond Princess" owned by your country!" Twitter user @Gelsomi47388050 said in English.
The Diamond Princess is a UK flagged vessel owned by Carnival Corp.
Another user said London would be the best back-up option.
"Probably the only major city that could, facilities, hotels etc all ready & the weather would be more conducive to both competitions/ spectators than Tokyo," @twose_brian also tweeted in English in reply to Bailey, tagging #LondonOlympics2020.
The Tokyo 2020 organizing committee did not comment on Bailey's remarks. It said in an e-mailed statement that they were taking the necessary steps over the coronavirus.
"Tokyo 2020 will continue to collaborate with all relevant organisations which carefully monitor any incidence of infectious diseases and we will review any countermeasures that may be necessary with all relevant organisations,” it said.
Bailey was not reachable for comment.