Japan's Olympic minister Seiko Hashimoto said Tuesday she believes the postponed Tokyo Games should be held next year "at any cost" in consideration of the preparations being made by athletes and others involved with the tournament.

"All the people involved with the games are working together to prepare, and the athletes are also making considerable efforts toward next year under the circumstances they've been handed," Hashimoto said during a press conference.

Japan's Olympics minister Seiko Hashimoto (Kyodo)

"I think we have to hold the games at any cost," she said. "I want to concentrate all our efforts on measures against the coronavirus."

Hashimoto made the comments in response to remarks made by International Olympic Committee Vice President John Coates, head of the IOC's coordination commission, who told AFP on Monday that the games "will take place with or without COVID" as planned starting on July 23 in Japan next summer.

The Olympics had originally been scheduled to take place this summer between July 24 and Aug. 9, followed by the Paralympics from Aug. 25 to Sept. 6, before the global outbreak of the novel coronavirus forced the unprecedented one-year delay.

A Japanese government panel tasked with formulating steps to counter the coronavirus pandemic at the Tokyo Games held its first meeting Friday, in cooperation with the Tokyo metropolitan government and the local Olympic organizing committee.

The panel plans to have several more meetings before issuing a report on issues including easing travel restrictions for foreign athletes, anti-virus measures at the athletes' village and games' venues, steps to be taken against infections and how to handle spectators.

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