Olympics could be delayed: Tokyo organiser

Steve Larkin

The Olympics could be delayed by a year or two if the coronavirus outbreak prevents the Games being held from July, a Tokyo Olympic Committee executive says.

The Tokyo Games are due to start on July 24 but Haruyuki Takahashi, an organising committee member, says if the global coronavirus outbreak prevents the sporting showpiece from being held a postponement is likely.

Takahashi has told The Wall Street Journal financial damage from cancelling the Games, or holding them without spectators, would be too great for them not to be held at some stage.

"I don't think the Games could be cancelled," Takahashi told the newspaper.

"It would be a delay.

"The International Olympic Committee would be in trouble if there's a cancellation. American TV rights alone provide them with a huge amount."

Takahashi said the committee's executive board had yet to discuss the impact of the virus on the Games - their most recent meeting was last December, before the epidemic spread.

International Olympic Committee organising committee president Yoshiro Mori said last month the Games were expected to proceed as scheduled.

And Japan's Olympics Minister Seiko Hashimoto has said a cancellation or delay would be "unacceptable" for athletes.

Many sports have postponed Olympic qualifying events.

In Japan, preseason baseball games have been played at empty stadiums.

Officials of Nippon Professional Baseball said earlier this week the season, originally scheduled to open on March 20, would not start until April at the earliest.

Japan has reported nearly 1,300 coronavirus cases, including about 700 from a cruise ship that was quarantined near Tokyo last month.