Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso on Wednesday referred to the 2020 Olympics as "cursed" due to mounting speculation that the Games may need to be postponed or canceled over the coronavirus pandemic.

The remarks made at a parliamentary panel by the gaffe-prone politician could spark criticism from athletes and people preparing for the Games this summer.

(Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso)

During a meeting of the Financial Affairs Committee of the House of Councillors, Aso, who doubles as Japan's finance minister, pointed out that extraordinary circumstances seem to overshadow the Olympics in 40-year intervals dating back to 1940, when the expansion of war between Japan and China forced the abandoning of planned Summer Games in Tokyo and Winter Games in Sapporo.

In 1980, the Moscow Olympics were boycotted by many Western countries as well as Japan, in protest against the invasion by the then-Soviet Union into Afghanistan the previous year, Aso said.

With regard to concern about the risk of coronavirus infection during the 2020 Olympics, he said, "It is a pretty difficult decision, given spectators."

"Being able to host the Olympics would move the people. It is desirable (for the Games) to be held peacefully," Aso said, without elaborating further.

The Olympics are scheduled to run from July 24 to Aug. 9, and the Paralympics from Aug. 25 to Sept. 6.