CNN  — 

As Covid-19 spreads with alacrity around the world, billion-dollar sports leagues have been brought to a halt.

Thursday in the US was one of the most extraordinary in the country’s sports history as the NBA, the WNBA and the much-anticipated NCAA’s men’s and women’s basketball tournaments were among the major events suspended or postponed.

Competitions once regarded as shatterproof have been affected. The English Premier League, often described as the world’s richest soccer league, on Friday announced a suspension.

But the Olympic Games, the biggest sporting spectacle of all, is still set to go ahead, which begs the question: with society shutting down as a result of a worldwide pandemic, will the Olympics really be held in Tokyo this summer?

What has been said?

On Saturday, Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the Olympics will go ahead, while the day before Japan’s Olympics Minister Seiko Hashimoto had dismissed suggestions that Tokyo 2020 should be postponed.

Responding to comments made by US President Donald Trump, who had suggested the Games should be rescheduled, Hashimoto said neither the local organizing committee or the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had considered postponing or canceling the Games.

“We continue to proceed preparations to hold a safe and secure Games that will open on July 24,” said Hashimoto.

On March 12, the day the Olympic torch was lit in ancient Olympia without spectators because of ongoing concerns over COVID-19, the IOC said it was “fully committed” to holding the Games, set to run from July 24 to August 9, in Tokyo.

“Nineteen weeks before the opening ceremony of the Games we are strengthened in our commitment by many organizations around the world taking significant measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus,” Thomas Bach, the IOC president, said.

Much is still unknown

The coronavirus has infected more than 132,500 people and killed nearly 5,000 globally, according to the World Health Organization.

COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, is thought to kill some 1-2% of known patients, compared to around 0.1% for winter influenza, but much remains unknown about it.

Japan has so far seen a relatively low number of infections compared with neighboring South Korea and China. However, a spike in confirmed cases has sparked fears of a more severe outbreak in the country.

The country experienced an uptick in numbers on Tuesday, with 54 more cases reported – one of the biggest single-day jumps since the outbreak began, according to the country’s Ministry of Health.

And Japan has come under immense international scrutiny for its handling of the outbreak, specifically over its quarantine of the stricken Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama Bay.

A woman wearing a face mask walks past the Olympic rings in front of the new National Stadium, the main stadium for Tokyo 2020.

Health experts have also previously raised concerns over the country’s approach to testing, which has seen only small numbers screened for the virus.

Masahiro Kami, executive director of Japanese non-profit Medical Governance Research Institute, told CNN last week that the official infection rate is likely just the “tip of the iceberg.”

This week the country canceled the annual public service in Tokyo which marks the Fukushima disaster.

The start of the baseball, football and rugby sevens seasons have already been delayed, while a major sumo tournament that opened in Osaka last weekend was held without spectators for the first time in its history.

With the Games still scheduled to go ahead, the outbreak in Japan and the government’s handling of it will continue to be under heightened scrutiny.

What are the options for Tokyo 2020?

If the Games were being held now, it would be difficult to imagine how organizers could go ahead as planned. Thousands of people converging in Tokyo during a pandemic would surely not be countenanced.

But Tokyo 2020 has time. Experts hope warmer weather will help fight the virus, though it is yet unclear whether that theory is true.

The Olympic movement essentially has two opportunities to make money, at the Summer Games and the Winter Olympics, so with billions of dollars at stake, in ticket sales, hospitality and sponsorship especially, organizers are as yet unwilling to contemplate a delay or cancellation.