Postponing the Olympics over the coronavirus pandemic may become "inevitable", Japan's prime minister conceded on Monday, after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said a delay was being considered as pressure grows from athletes and sports bodies.
The comments from Shinzo Abe were his first acknowledgement that the 2020 Games may not open as scheduled on July 24, as the coronavirus marches across the globe causing unprecedented chaos.
Canada's Olympic and Paralympic committees meanwhile announced they will not send teams to the Games if they are held this summer, citing the health of their athletes and the general public.
And Australia's Olympic committee told athletes to prepare for a Tokyo Olympics in the northern-hemisphere summer of 2021.
"It's clear the Games can't be held in July," Australian chef de mission Ian Chesterman said.
For weeks, Japan and Olympic officials have held the line that preparations are moving ahead to hold the Games as scheduled, but there has been increasing pressure from sports federations and athletes whose training has been thrown into turmoil.
On Monday, Abe told parliament that Japan was still committed to hosting a "complete" Games, but added: "If that becomes difficult, in light of considering athletes first, it may become inevitable that we make a decision to postpone."
"Cancellation is not an option," Abe said, echoing comments from IOC chief Thomas Bach, who ruled out scrapping the Games, saying it "would not solve any problem and would help nobody".
The IOC has also shifted its position on the Games, issuing a statement on Sunday saying it was stepping up planning for different scenarios, including postponement.
It said it would hold "detailed discussions" on the "worldwide health situation and its impact on the Olympic Games, including the scenario of postponement".
A decision should come "within the next four weeks", the body added.
Source: Time of India
BDST: 1250 HRS, MAR 23, 2020