Olympics can be postponed until end of 2020 - Japan minister

The Olympics can be postponed until the end of 2020, Japan's Olympic minister has said. Alessandro Di Ciommo/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Tokyo's contract with the International Olympic Committee allows it to postpone the Games until the end of the year, Japan's Olympic minister said Tuesday, amid concern that the coronavirus outbreak could force the IOC to cancel them.

"The contract calls for the Games to be held within 2020. That could be interpreted as allowing a postponement," Japan's Olympic minister Seiko Hashimoto said in response to a lawmaker's question in parliament.

Under the hosting agreement, the right to cancel the Games belongs to the IOC, whose president, Thomas Bach, said last week that his organisation was "fully committed" to holding the Tokyo Olympics on schedule despite the coronavirus spread.

Hashimoto said Japan's government and Tokyo were still committed to hosting the Olympics, which are set to open July 24 with 11,000 athletes. The Paralympics are scheduled to open Aug. 25 with 4,400 athletes.

The coronavirus has killed more than 3,000 people and infected more than 89,000 globally after it originated in China late last year.

A number of Olympic qualifying events have been affected by the outbreak. This month's wheelchair rugby test event has been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak, Tokyo 2020 organisers said on Tuesday.

A boccia competition which was to double as a test event for this year's Tokyo Paralympic Games was postponed last month, and the Tokyo marathon on Sunday was closed to general participation with only elite athletes allowed to take part.