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The chief executive of the postponed Tokyo Olympic Games said Friday that he couldn't guarantee the massive sporting event will be held next year as the coronavirus continues to rapidly spread across the world.
The games were slated to be staged beginning in July but were postponed last month with a new target date of July 23, 2021.
“I don’t think anyone would be able to say if it is going to be possible to get it under control by next July or not,” Tokyo organizing committee CEO Toshiro Muto said, speaking through an interpreter at a news conference conducted remotely. ”We’re certainly are not in a position to give you a clear answer.”
Japan — which has the world's oldest population — has 5,000 known COVID-19 cases and 100 deaths. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe issued an emergency declaration this week that tightened restrictions to slow the spread of the virus.
Muto suggested there were no alternatives plans if the games are not able to be held next year.
"Mankind should bring together all of its technology and wisdom to work hard so they can development treatments, medicines and vaccines," he said. “So this means that all we can do is work hard to prepare for the games. We sincerely hope that come next year mankind will manage to overcome the coronavirus crisis.”
He said the organizing committee has taken out several insurance policies but could not say whether the postponement would be covered.
He was also asked about the Olympic flame, which was taken off public display this week in Fukushima.
“After the Olympic torch relay was canceled, the Olympic flame was put under the management of Tokyo 2020,” Muto said. “Obviously, in the future there is a possibility it might be put on display somewhere. However, for now it is under the management of Tokyo 2020 and I’m not going to make any further comment on the issue.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.