Tokyo - Tokyo risks losing the Olympics if they're postponed later than this
year over the new coronavirus, a government minister said on Tuesday,
adding that May looks like the deadline for the decision.
The contract for the Games says the International Olympic Committee (IOC)
can withdraw hosting rights if they're not held in 2020, Olympics
Minister Seiko Hashimoto told parliament.
Japan's government, Tokyo organisers and the IOC have all pledged to
hold the Games on schedule from July 24, but the fast-spreading virus
continues to raise concerns.
"Looking at the contract once again, it says in Article 66 that the
IOC holds the right to cancel the Games by deactivating the contract
if... the Games are not held in 2020," Hashimoto said.
"At this moment, the Tokyo 2020 committee, the IOC and Tokyo (city
government) are doing their best to make sure the Games will be held
from July 24," she added.
"The government will fully support that."
COVID-19 has been detected in 76 countries, killing 3 116 and causing
chaos as governments clamp down on travel. A long list of sports events
have been cancelled or postponed to avoid spreading the virus.
Hashimoto added that May looked like an "important benchmark" for deciding whether the Games go ahead as scheduled.
"An IOC member has said the end of May is the final deadline for
making the decision," she said, referring to remarks by senior IOC
member Dick Pound.
"So I think the end of May is an important benchmark," Hashimoto said.
"We're making utmost efforts so that the IOC can be convinced that the Tokyo Games can be held safely."
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has stepped up national measures
to contain the virus, urging schools nationwide to close for several
weeks and calling on organisers of large events to consider cancelling
or delaying them.
Everything from football matches and music concerts have been
affected, while sumo's spring tournament will be held behind closed
Also on Tuesday, a wheelchair rugby test event for the Paralympics,
which are scheduled to start on August 25, was cancelled over the virus.
"Tokyo 2020 nevertheless will carry out the wheelchair rugby test
event in some form in April, after ensuring a safe and secure
environment," an organising committee statement said.