Coronavirus: Tokyo Olympics could be delayed until the end of the year

Japan's Olympic minister said they don't have to start in July as scheduled

The Olympic Rings are pictured at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) headquarters in Lausanne on March 3, 2020. 

 The COVID-19 which has already killed more than 3000 people in the World will be at the center of a meeting of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on March 3 and 4, 2020 in Lausanne less than five months before the opening ceremony of the Olympics in Tokyo. / AFP / Fabrice COFFRINI
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The Tokyo Olympics could be postponed until the end of the year in response to the coronavirus, Japan's Olympic minister announced on Tuesday.

Seiko Hashimoto suggested the Olympics would not have to start on July 24 as planned.

The Olympics are being threatened by the virus which has shut down most sports competitions and Games-related events in the country.

“The IOC has the right to cancel the games only if they are not held during 2020,” Hashimoto told parliament. “This can be interpreted to mean the games can be postponed as long as they are held during the calendar year.”

IOC officials and Tokyo organisers have repeatedly said they expect the Olympics to open on schedule. Others have suggested the spreading virus could force cancellation, postponement or moving events to other cities.

Asked if she believed the Olympics should be still held even if the coronavirus outbreak is worse than it is now, Hashimoto said: “We are making the utmost effort so that we don’t have to face that situation.”

Dick Pound, the longest-serving member of the International Olympic Committee, suggested last week there is a risk of cancellation in Japan if the virus is not contained by the end of May.