Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe admitted for the first time on Monday that the Summer Olympics could be delayed due to the corona virus, as countries threatened to keep their athletes at home.
“If it is difficult to continue, we first have to think about the athletes and consider postponing them,” Abe told Parliament.
The preference was to hold the games later this calendar year if possible, and a full cancellation is not an option, he said, and repeated one previous statement by the International Olympic Committee.
In the meantime, the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee informed reporters that it won’t make a final decision for another four weeks.
Organizers need to model how delays of one, three and five months affect the availability of venues and develop contingency plans, said committee president Mori Yoshiro.
“Cancellation would not solve a problem and would not help anyone,” said Thomas Bach, president of the international committee, on Sunday. He added that canceling the games would “destroy” the dreams of 11,000 athletes from around the world.
The games are scheduled to start on July 24th. The organizers said the budget for hosting the event was $ 12.6 billion.
Canada and Australia announced on Sunday that they would not send athletes if the games were not delayed. “This is not just about athletes’ health, but also about public health,” said the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Committee, calling on the organizers to postpone the event by a year.
The Olympic Torch arrived in northern Japan last Friday. Tokyo 2020 director general, Muto Toshiro, said the torch relay, scheduled to start on March 26, will continue to take place.
The Japanese Ministry of Health reported 1,801 confirmed cases of the virus on Monday, including 712 from a cruise ship with 49 deaths.
According to Johns Hopkins University, more than 335,000 people worldwide are infected and more than 14,600 have died.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.