Japan’s Olympic minister has stated that the Tokyo 2020 Games could be postponed from the summer to later in the year amid fears over the coronavirus outbreak.
Seiko Hashimoto said Tokyo’s contract with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) “calls for the Games to be held within 2020”. She added that this agreement meant that it “could be interpreted as allowing a postponement”.
The Games are due to be held from 24 July to 9 August however it has been placed in doubt following the spread of Covid-19, the disease caused by coronavirus. There are 90,000 cases and more than 3,000 deaths confirmed globally.
“We are doing all we can to ensure that the Games go ahead as planned,” Hashimoto added.
Under the hosting agreement the right to cancel the Games remains with the IOC.
In response, the International Olympic Committee has sought to play down fears of of delay and insist the Games will go ahead as scheduled.
Speaking in Lausanne, Thomas Bach the IOC president, insisted that athletes should continue their Olympic preparations “with great confidence”. Bach’s address followed a meeting of the IOC board in which it was decided that they remain committed to holding the Olympics between 24 July and 9 August.
“The International Olympic Committee executive board today expressed its full commitment to the success of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, taking place from 24 July to 9 August 2020,” read a statement.
“The IOC EB heard a report on all the measures taken so far to address the coronavirus situation, which was followed by a comprehensive discussion. A joint task force had already been created in mid-February, involving the IOC, Tokyo 2020, the host city of Tokyo, the government of Japan and the World Health Organization.”
“The IOC will continue to follow the advice of WHO, as the leading United Nations agency on this topic.”
“Following a very comprehensive discussion in the executive board, the IOC remains fully committed to the success of the Olympic Games,” said Bach. “I would like to encourage all the athletes to continue with their preparations for the Olympic Games with great confidence and with full steam.”
Meanwhile the Japan Para Wheelchair Rugby Championship, scheduled to take place on 12-15 March and a test event for the Paralympic Games, has been cancelled because of the spread of coronavirus.