Postponing or cancelling the Tokyo Olympics is "inconceivable", Japan's Olympic minister said Wednesday, as the new coronavirus outbreak raises fears the event could be scrapped.
"From the viewpoint of athletes who are the main protagonists in the Tokyo Games, as they are making adjustments and preparations for this once-in-four-years event... it is inconceivable to cancel or postpone," Seiko Hashimoto told a parliament committee.
She conceded that "it is the IOC (International Olympic Committee) who will make a final decision on the Games".
Hashimoto added: "We think it is important that the government gives correct information so that the IOC makes an appropriate decision." The rapid spread of the virus, which has infected more than 560 people and been linked to 12 deaths in Japan, has cast a shadow over preparations for the Games.
Hashimoto's comments came after the Wall Street Journal quoted a member of the Tokyo's organisers' executive board as saying a delay of two years would be the most realistic option if the Games cannot be held this summer.
"We'll have to start talking about this seriously from April," Haruyuki Takahashi told the Journal, adding the board has not yet discussed the issue.
Asked about the report, Hashimoto said she was told by the 2020 organisers that they are preparing for the Games as scheduled from July 24 to August 9.
Tokyo 2020 organisers said they had "sought clarification" from Takahashi.
"He stated he had inadvertently given his personal opinion in response to a hypothetical question," a statement said.
"As IOC President (Thomas) Bach stated the other day, neither the IOC nor the organising committee are considering postponing or cancelling the Tokyo 2020 Games, and we are proceeding with our preparations for a safe and secure Games opening on 24 July 2020 as planned.