But the head of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee quickly dismissed any suggestion of a delay, saying his team was not considering any change in plan and Haruyuki Takahashi, the official who raised the possibility of a postponement, had apologized for the “outrageous” suggestion, Reuters reported.
Takahashi, one of more than two dozen members of the Tokyo 2020 executive board, said earlier the board had just started looking at scenarios for how the virus could affect the Games, and a delay was one possibility.
Organizers have been pushing a consistent message that the Games would not be canceled or postponed but sponsors who have pumped in billions of dollars have grown increasingly nervous about how the coronavirus outbreak will impact the event.
Takahashi told Reuters that the financial damage from canceling the Games or holding them without spectators would be too great, while a delay of less than a year would clash with other major professional sports schedules.
“We need to start preparing for any possibility. If the Games can’t be held in the summer, a delay of one or two years would be most feasible,” Takahashi said.
But organizing committee head Yoshiro Mori later said there was no thought of changing the plan for the Games and that they would open as scheduled on July 24.
“It is our basic stance that we press ahead with preparation for a safe and secure Olympics,” Mori told reporters at a hastily arranged evening briefing.
“Therefore we are not at all thinking about changing courses or plans.”
Japan has had nearly 1,300 cases of the coronavirus, including about 700 from a cruise ship that was quarantined near Tokyo last month.
Mori, asked what made him confident that the Games would not be affected by the coronavirus outbreak, said he thought an impact was unavoidable but he did not give details.
“Specialists in each field are looking into what to do,” he said.
“I believe the WHO (World Health Organization) will soon announce its basic stance.”
He said he had been surprised by Takahashi’s comments, which he termed “outrageous.”
“He said he was very sorry, that it was a slip of the tongue, and that he wanted to apologize for causing trouble.”
Experts say a one-year postponement, to the same time next year, would pose major logistical problems but was doable for broadcasters because it fits into their generally open summer schedule.
With every new spike in coronavirus cases, speculation swirls that the Games could be canceled, delayed, or held without spectators, like many pre-Olympic qualifiers and other sports events.