Olympics postponement ‘inconceivable,’ says Japan minister

TOKYO: A postponement or delay to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo is “inconceivable,” the Japanese minister responsible for the games said, responding to comments made by a member of the organising committee which suggested a possible delay of up to two years as the coronavirus continues to spread.

“With the star athletes in the middle of preparations for this event which happens only once every four years, a cancellation or delay to the Tokyo games is inconceivable,” Olympics minister Seiko Hashimoto said in a parliamentary committee.

“A delay is not under consideration.”

Hashimoto was responding to questions about a Wall Street Journal report in which Haruyuki Takahashi, a member of the executive board for the Japanese organising committee, suggested that while a cancellation was unlikely, the games could be delayed by one or two years if unable to be held as scheduled due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Hashimoto did however acknowledge that the final decision rests with the International Olympic Committee. She herself is a former Olympic athlete who appeared in multiple summer and winter games.

The remarks are the latest in a series of back-and-forth statements between the various groups involved in organising the games.

Hashimoto said earlier this month a delay was theoretically possible, leading IOC President Thomas Bach to deny any discussion or a delay or cancellation had taken place.

Japan has taken increasingly bold steps to attempt to contain the coronavirus, so far limiting infections to fewer than 600, but as the virus spreads across multiple nations, the decision may no longer rest on the state of the contagion in the country.

Japan has previously said the end of May may mark a key stage for a decision. The Olympic Games haven’t been cancelled since the summer of 1944, when they were called off due to World War II.