Tokyo Olympics 2020 to be postponed amid coronavirus outbreak?
Japan's Olympic minister Seiko Hashimoto said the country's agreement with the International Olympic Committee potentially allows them to postpone the Games until the end of the year.
The Tokyo Olympics could be postponed until the end of 2020 in a bid to halt the spread of the coronavirus that has killed more than 3,100 people -- the vast majority in mainland China -- and infected over 90,000 people in more than 70 countries and territories.
Japan's Olympic minister Seiko Hashimoto told lawmakers on Tuesday that the country's agreement with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) potentially allows them to postpone the Games until the end of the year, amid concern the coronavirus could disrupt the event.
"The contract calls for the Games to be held within 2020. That could be interpreted as allowing a postponement," Seiko Hashimoto said in response to a lawmaker's question in Parliament.
However, Japan's government and host city Tokyo were still committed to hosting the Games, due to begin on July 24, she added. And under the hosting agreement, the right to cancel the Games belongs to the IOC.
Thomas Bach, head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), reiterated on Tuesday that preparations were still underway for a "successful" Games in Tokyo. Any halt to the Games would be costly.
The latest budget is 1.35 trillion yen ($12.51 billion), with Japan's government providing 120 billion yen to build the Olympic Stadium and 30 billion yen toward the cost of the 2020 Paralympics, Hashimoto said.
Japan’s Board of Audit put government spending between the bid in 2013 and 2018 at 1.06 trillion yen. To curb the coronavirus, Japan's government has asked schools to close and encouraged the curtailment of events, including sports meetings, that could attract large crowds.
Japan Para Sports Association and Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic organisers said on Tuesday they would cancel a wheelchair rugby test event this month due to the coronavirus.
Test events for the Olympics have been cancelled amid the outbreak in Japan. Dick Pound, the vice-president of the IOC, has suggested that the Games could be called off if the virus is still around by May, reports say.
At present, the virus shows no signs of abating. Japan's national broadcasting organisation NHK said that the number of infections in the country reached 980, including 706 people on the Diamond Prince cruise ship. Twelve people have died in the country due to the virus.
There were also reports of a woman in Japan catching the virus for the second time, in what is believed to be the first instance of such a case.
Suggestions have already been made that the Games could be held without any fans in attendance in order to limit the spread of the virus. Protesters in Japan have called for the event to be cancelled because of the outbreak.
British Cycling chief Stephen Park said that holding events in empty stadiums could be the best way to avoid calling the event off or having it moved to another country.