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Japanese official raises possibility Olympics could be postponed

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Japan’s Olympic minister said on Tuesday that the contract to hold the Tokyo Games only mandates that the event be held during 2020 amid fears over the spread of coronavirus.

Seiko Hashimoto implied that the Olympics, currently scheduled to start on July 24, could be held later this year while responding to a question in the upper house of Japan’s Parliament, The Associated Press reported.

“The IOC [International Olympic Committee] has the right to cancel the games only if they are not held during 2020,” she said, the news service reported. “This can be interpreted to mean the games can be postponed as long as they are held during the calendar year.”

IOC President Thomas Bach and other organizers in Tokyo have said that they do not expect the Olympics to be postponed by the spread of the coronavirus. Bach told Japanese media last week that “the preparations for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 are continuing with a view to having successful Olympic Games this summer in Tokyo,” according to the AP. 

He also declined to “fuel the flames of speculation” over reports of the games being delayed.

Hashimoto said on Tuesday that she believed that the Olympics should continue on schedule even if coronavirus continues to spread.

“We are making the utmost effort so that we don’t have to face that situation,” she reportedly said. 

Twelve people in Japan have died from the rapidly spreading virus. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said last week that all of the country’s elementary, junior high and high schools would be asked to close until the end of their school year later this month.

Coronavirus has been confirmed in at least 70 countries, with more than 90,000 confirmed infections and more than 3,000 deaths reported.

International broadcasters have influence over any changes to the games. The IOC receives 73 percent of its $5.7 billion in profits during the Olympics’ 4-year cycle from selling the rights to broadcast the games around the world.

Tags Coronavirus Olympics

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