International Olympic Committee senior official John Coates said the postponed Tokyo Games might not go ahead in July 2021, even with the development of a coronavirus vaccine, Australian media reported Thursday.
Coates, who heads the IOC's coordination commission, said October will be a critical period for assessing whether the Japanese capital can host the games next year, according to The Australian newspaper.
Coates said Olympic organizers were facing "real problems" due to the sheer number of people converging on Tokyo from multiple countries, many of which are still in the depths of a public health crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
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"Yesterday there were 10,000 new cases in Brazil. Very few countries are as advanced in coping with this as us," Coates said, referring to his native Australia, which has been largely successful in controlling the virus' spread.
Coates' comments were made during a News Corp media roundtable involving Australian sports executives.
"The games can only happen in 2021. We can't postpone it again and we have to assume that there won't be a vaccine or, if there is a vaccine, it won't be sufficient to share around the world," Coates said.
Japan's Olympic minister Seiko Hashimoto, meanwhile, said there had been no discussion between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and IOC President Thomas Bach about canceling the games if they cannot be held next summer.
Hashimoto's comments at a press conference Friday followed a BBC report in which Bach was quoted as saying Abe had told the IOC chief during a phone call that next summer was "the last option."
"There was no talk of cancelation," Hashimoto said.
The IOC chief had reiterated his "strong commitment to the success of the Tokyo Games," she said.
The Tokyo Olympics, which were originally scheduled to begin on July 24, were postponed in late March after countries began to withdraw their teams due to coronavirus fears.
The Olympics are now set to start on July 23, 2021, and run through Aug. 8, followed by the Paralympics from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5.