Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said for the first time on Monday that the Tokyo Olympic Games may be postponed if the event cannot be held in its “complete form” due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The flame was transported by a special aircraft “Tokyo 2020 Go” from Athens, Greece, and arrived at Japan Air Self-Defence Force (JASDF) Matsushima Air Base in Miyagi Prefecture on March 20.
The flame was originally lit in front of the ruins of the Temple of Hera in Ancient Olympia on 12 March, and after its week-long stay in Greece was handed over to Tokyo at Tokyo at a ceremony at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said on Sunday after an emergency meeting that it is stepping up its “scenario planning” for the 2020 Games due to start on July 24, including a possible postponement.
Abe said while cancelling the Games was not an option, a delay was now on the cards if the event could not be held in its complete form.
“If that becomes difficult, we may have no option but to consider postponing the Games,” he told parliament.
He said he had conveyed his views to Tokyo Games chief Yoshiro Mori on Sunday evening, who then discussed the issue with IOC President Thomas Bach.
Under mounting pressure from athletes, federations and national committees to postpone the Games, the IOC did a partial U-turn on Sunday after long insisting, with Tokyo organisers, that the Games would go ahead as planned.
Tokyo 2020 organisers have started drafting alternative dates for the Olympics, sources have told Reuters.
At the current speed, the number of patients with coronavirus in Tokyo is expected grow by 530 through April 8, according to experts advising the city.
As of March 22, the number of confirmed cases in Tokyo was 130, with four dead, the Tokyo government said.
Prime Minister Abe said all travellers from the U.S., including Japanese citizens, would be asked to go into quarantine for 14 days after their arrival in Japan.
In the U.S., nearly one in three residents has been ordered to stay at home to slow the spread of the flu-like virus as cases nationwide topped 32,000, with more than 415 dead, according to a Reuters tally.
Japan’s foreign ministry has advised citizens to avoid non-essential and non-urgent travel to the U.S.