China says Olympic preparations to proceed as normal amid coronavirus outbreak

China's preparations for this year's Olympics are proceeding as normal amid the country's ongoing fight against the coronavirus outbreak, a high-ranking official from its top athletic governing body said Saturday.

"The epidemic has indeed presented severe challenges as we prepare for Tokyo," Liu Guoyong, the head official in charge of competitions from the General Administration of Sport, said in a live interview on national broadcaster CCTV Saturday. "But as of now, preparations for all teams are going smoothly and no suspected (coronavirus) case has occurred."

Liu, who also handles disease response responsibilities, said officials are doing everything they can to minimize the impact of this deadly epidemic, including having athletes train in safe, isolated settings in major facilities throughout Beijing.

Since the acceleration of the outbreak in late January in the country, officials say China's plans to participate in numerous Olympic qualification competitions at home and abroad have also been affected.

"This is also a test to examine our athletic teams' ability to compete in complex and adverse situations," he said.

With the Olympics regarded as arguably the utmost important sporting event in China, officials over the years have put enormous emphasis and resources into the preparations effort, especially during crises. Similar preventive measures were previously seen in 2003 -- a year before the Athens Olympics -- when China was battling a SARS outbreak.

Meanwhile, seeing no slowing down of the outbreak in the near term, officials have also postponed a number of sporting events, including the Chinese Super League and Chinese Basketball Association games.

"We think this is an appropriate move," Liu said. "Bottom line is, we are putting the safety of our athletes as well as everyone else first when making these considerations."

Liu said the resumption of the sporting events is contingent upon whether the epidemic can be effectively contained as well as the directives from local government officials. Currently, many athletes are training in isolated sessions while in waiting.

The coronavirus outbreak is the most severe disease outbreak China has seen in years, and has been declared a global public health emergency. By early Sunday, more than 14,000 cases have been confirmed nationwide, according to government figures released by Chinese health officials.