Tokyo Olympics 2020: NZ athletes taking day-by-day approach to coronavirus risk

NZ Olympians are trying to take a narrow view of the coronavirus epidemic that threatens the Tokyo Games in July/August.

The first members of the New Zealand contingent - expected to be our largest ever at about 200 athletes - were named on Wednesday morning, when seven sailors at Auckland's Royal Akarana Yacht Club.

Reigning 49er champions Peter Burling and Blair Tuke head the team, along with Rio 2016 49er FX silver medallists Alex Maloney and Molly Meech, Laser bronze medallist Sam Meech, and newcomers Micah Wilkinson and Erica Dawson in the Nacra 17 class.

But what should have been a joyous occasion has been clouded by the global illness that has already forced the postponement or cancellation of other major sporting events, and may yet claim the Tokyo Olympics as well.

"That's something that is a little bit out of our control," Burling told The AM Show. "The NZOC has the best handle on it and they are giving us the advice that it's all going ahead as planned on time.

"The only thing we can really do is put our best foot forward, and continue to plan and prepare as best we can, and making sure we are ready to go when it all kicks off."

Japanese Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto raised the issue again overnight, when he admitted the Games could be delayed until later in 2020, but would be cancelled if no suitable date could be found this year.

The International Olympic Committee will discuss the crisis over the next two days, but insists the Games will go ahead as planned.

NZ Olympic Committee chief executive Kereyn Smith told The AM Show that none of this was within the control of athletes, who were simply focused on qualifying and selection for the Games.

"This morning, we had a reaffirmation from the IOC that they are absolutely committed to the Olympics starting in July, as scheduled, in 140-odd days," said Smith.

"We had absolutely no indication from either Tokyo or the IOC that there are any plans for cancellation or postponement, so our real focus is working with the athletes and the sports.

"It's been quite disruptive for them - there have been a number of events and opportunities rescheduled, so we're focused on helping them get to the start-line."

Some sports - like boxing - have had Olympic qualifying events called off, while others have had major events - like the world indoor athletics championships - cancelled.

"Our really important concentration is around making sure the athletes keep going," said Smith.

"In fact, amongst the athlete community we're working with, they're very much 'business as usual'. We haven't detected any extreme anxiety at all.

"The Olympic Games are a wonderful, unifying opportunity for the world and there's no greater opportunity than seeing the best of the best in the world compete against each other.

"I know our athletes are really excited. They've been training for 8-10-12 years for this opportunity and it's incumbent on us to do everything we can to make sure they get to that start-line."

Smith admitted the affects of any epidemic spread far beyond athletes, with 200-300 support staff, and perhaps thousands of family and friends planning to attend the Tokyo Olympics.

Many athletes are planning to arrive in Japan early to acclimatise to hot conditions.

"Sailing are outside Tokyo," said Smith. "They're well seasoned and have been up there many, many times, and competed there a lot.

"They're always well prepared for Olympic events and I'm sure they've got many scenarios planned out this time as well."