Japan could be allowed to postpone Olympics to end of year, minister says

Japan could be allowed to postpone Olympics to end of year, minister says

A man wearing protective face mask, following an outbreak of the coronavirus, is seen next to a cam
A man wearing protective face mask, following an outbreak of the coronavirus, is seen next to a campaign banner for Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at New Chitose Airport in Chitose, Hokkaido, northern Japan, Feb 27, 2020. (Photo: REUTERS/Issei Kato)

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 (Mar 3), 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.

READ: Global sport heavily disrupted by coronavirus

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

READ: Money, money, money: What's at stake if Olympics fall victim to coronavirus

The latest budget is ¥1.35 trillion (US$12.51 billion), with Japan's government providing ¥120 billion to build the Olympic Stadium and ¥30 billion 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. 

To curb the coronavirus, Japan's government has asked schools to close and encouraged the curtailment of events, including sports meetings, that could attract large crowds.

Japan Para Sports Association and Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic organisers said on Tuesday they would cancel a wheelchair rugby test event this month due to the coronavirus.

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Source: Reuters/ec/nh

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