TOKYO: The world needs to put an end to the coronavirus before the Tokyo Games can be held in their "complete form," Japanese Olympics Minister Seiko Hashimoto said on Tuesday (Mar 24).
"I believe the Tokyo Games cannot move toward the 'complete form' that the prime minister (Shinzo Abe) has mentioned as long as countries of the world have not put an end to the coronavirus," Hashimoto told reporters.
"So, it's first and foremost for us to join forces and respond firmly for putting an end to the coronavirus," she said.
Holders of tickets for the Tokyo Olympics face an anxious wait as the future of the Games hangs in the balance, following media reports they might not get a refund in case of a postponement or cancellation.
Tokyo 2020 has not confirmed how many tickets have been sold but in the bidding process, organisers said more than 7 million seats would be available. All domestic tickets for the Olympics have been sold, according to organisers.
In the most recent Games budget from December 2019, organisers said US$800 million had been raised through ticket sales.
Now, with the International Olympic Committee and Tokyo organisers saying postponement is being considered in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, ticket holders are worried about what this means for them.
Last week, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported tickets might not be refundable, citing Olympic organisers and contractual details connected to the tickets.
"IT WILL MESS UP MY PLANS"
Kokoro Yamada has two tickets for the closing ceremony, which have cost her 440,000 yen (US$3,980).
Yamada turns 30 the day after the Games closing ceremony on Aug 9 and the tickets were a present to herself.
“In case of postponement, it is a little disappointing because the closing ceremony is the day before my birthday ... so I was thinking it would be a very special day,” she said.
Yamada said she has read through the tickets terms and conditions several times but still cannot work out what postponement would mean.
When previously contacted about ticket refunds, Tokyo 2020 organisers said they were monitoring the situation.
“The terms and conditions do not state that ‘tickets cannot be refunded’, so the article is not accurate,” Tokyo 2020 organisers said.
Another Tokyoite, Keiko Morita, has spent approximately 2 million yen on tickets, including for the opening ceremony.
Despite being worried over the inconvenience postponement would cause her, Morita can go next year and understands the world is going through an unprecedented crisis.
“Of course it would be disappointing ... but of course this crisis is happening all over the world,” said Morita, who lives in Tokyo.
“It is not just about me and about the Olympics. There are many people in pain so we must accept it.”
Others are less certain they will be able to attend a rearranged Games.
“I am worried about what I should do. I adjusted my schedule and bought them,” said businesswoman Manari Osaki.
“If the Olympic games are postponed, it will mess up my plans and I may not be able to go see the Games.”
MOUNTING PRESSURE TO POSTPONE
US Olympic organisers joined calls for the Games to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, while the International Olympic Committee (IOC), according to member Dick Pound, has decided to delay the event, likely for a year.
Pound told Reuters a one-year postponement looked like the best solution. This would mean the Games are likely to be held in the summer of 2021.
"That's my conclusion (there will be a postponement)," Pound said in a telephone interview, after Sunday's IOC statement saying it was stepping up its "scenario planning" for the Tokyo 2020 Games - including a possible postponement.
The IOC said on Sunday the body would wait four more weeks before announcing its decision on the fate of the Games.
READ: Olympic postponement inevitable, says IOC official Pound
Major sporting nations Australia and Canada withdrew on Monday as organisers came under mounting pressure to postpone the event for the first time in its 124-year modern history.
The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee said it had listened to feedback from athletes and was encouraged by a clearer path towards postponement.
"Our most important conclusion from this broad athlete response is that even if the current significant health concerns could be alleviated by late summer, the enormous disruptions to the training environment, doping controls and qualification process can’t be overcome in a satisfactory manner," the USOPC said in a statement on Monday.
Pound told Reuters a one-year postponement looked like the best solution. This would mean the Games, scheduled for Jul 24 to Aug 9, are likely to be held in the summer of 2021.
Canada and Australia both bluntly said they would not participate if the Games were not put back to 2021 and Britain may have followed suit.
"We are in the midst of a global health crisis that is far more significant than sport," Canada's Olympic Committee and Paralympic Committee said in a statement.
A raft of other nations and sports bodies piled pressure on the IOC to make a quick decision.
Athletes were sad but broadly supported a delay.
"The right choice was made, but it doesn't make it any easier," said Canadian world champion swimmer Maggie MacNeil, who was hoping to make her Olympic debut in Tokyo.
"Sometimes you just need a good hug."