A Japanese cabinet minister admitted Friday that “anything can happen” with the coronavirus-postponed Tokyo Olympics, becoming the first senior official to concede uncertainty about the Games as Japan and other countries battle a surge in cases.
Taro Kono, minister for administrative and regulatory reform, did not rule out the possibility of the Olympics being cancelled, with greater Tokyo and other regions currently under a state of emergency until at least February 7.
He is the first cabinet minister to deviate from Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s insistence that Japan is on track to hold a “safe and secure” Games, despite a state of emergency being expanded this week to cover a total of 11 regions, including Osaka and Kyoto.
“Given the coronavirus situation, anything can happen,” Kono, a high-profile former foreign and defence minister, told a press briefing.
“The organising committee and the IOC must of course be thinking about back-up plans. The government is firmly preparing for the Olympics and Paralympics.”
Public support for the Olympics has plummeted in Japan, with a recent poll finding that more than 80 percent of respondents think the Games should be cancelled or postponed again.
Tokyo 2020 President Yoshiro Mori said in a speech Tuesday that another postponement was “absolutely impossible”, according to local media.
Mori also said Japan will decide in the coming months whether to allow foreign fans to enter for the Games, saying: “We will have to make a very difficult decision from February to March.”