Japan allowed to postpone Olympics until year end, says minister

TOKYO: Tokyo’s contract with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) allows it to postpone the Games until the end of the year, Japan’s Olympics minister said on Tuesday, amid concern the coronavirus outbreak could force the IOC to cancel them.

“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.

Under the hosting agreement, the right to cancel the Games belongs to the IOC.

Thomas Bach, president of the IOC, last week said his organisation was “fully committed” to holding the Tokyo Olympics on schedule despite the coronavirus spread.

Hashimoto said Japan’s government and Tokyo were still committed to hosting the sporting event, due to begin on July 24.

“We are doing all we can to ensure that the Games go ahead as planned,” she told parliament.

Any halt to the Games would be costly.

The latest budget is 1.35 trillion yen, 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.