Delaying Olympics most realistic option, says Tokyo 2020 official

TOKYO: If the Olympics can’t be held in Tokyo this summer due to the global outbreak of the coronavirus, a delay of one or two years would be the most realistic option, a Tokyo Olympic Committee executive board member told the Wall Street Journal.

Haruyuki Takahashi, one of about 25 members of the Japanese organising committee, said in an interview with the paper published on Wednesday that the board had not discussed the impact of the virus on the Games, having last met in December, before the epidemic spread.

Takahashi and the organising committee could not immediately be reached for comment.

The financial damage from cancelling the Games or holding them without spectators would be too great, Takahashi said, while a delay of less than a year would clash with other major professional sports schedules, according to the paper.

Experts say a one-year postponement to the same time next year would pose major logistical problems but was doable for broadcasters because it fits into their generally open summer schedule.

The new coronavirus has infected more than 116,000 people and killed more than 4,000 around the world since it surfaced in China late last year.

Japan has reported nearly 1,300 cases, including about 700 from a cruise ship that was quarantined near Tokyo last month.

On Tuesday, it saw the biggest number of infections in a single day, of 59 cases, according to public broadcaster NHK.

With every new spike in the figures, speculation has swirled that the Tokyo 2020 Games, due to open on July 24, could be cancelled, delayed, or held without spectators, like many pre-Olympic qualifiers and other unrelated sports events have been in the run-up.

Olympics Minister Seiko Hashimoto said as recently as Thursday that Japan was preparing for the Summer Games as planned, saying a cancellation or delay would be “unacceptable” for the athletes.