TOKYO: Postponing the 2020 Olympics “may become inevitable” if the new coronavirus outbreak makes it impossible to hold the Games safely, Japan’s prime minister said on Monday (Mar 23).

Shinzo Abe told parliament that Japan was still committed to 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.”

The comments were his first acknowledging the possibility that the Games may not open as scheduled on Jul 24 as the coronavirus continues to spread across the world.

READ: Most US athletes in survey want Olympic delay – report

READ: Tokyo Olympics – French athletics chief joins calls for postponement

Overnight, the International Olympic Committee also shifted its tone on the Games, saying it would step up planning for different scenarios, including postponement.

“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”.

READ: IOC says Olympics postponement an option, cancellation ‘not on agenda’

The IOC is responsible for making any final decision on the Games, and has come under increasing pressure from athletes and sports associations worldwide as the coronavirus crisis grows.

The death toll from the coronavirus – which has upended lives and closed businesses and schools across the planet – surged to more than 14,300 Sunday, according to an AFP tally.

READ: Coronavirus presents dope test hurdle for Tokyo Olympics

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