Tokyo 2020: Toshiro Muto not ruling out 11th-hour cancellation of Olympics due to Covid-19
There have been 10 more positive cases of Covid-19 in the last 24 hours, taking the total number of people affected to 68; Toshiro Muto says he will keep an eye on infection numbers and hold discussions with organisers if necessary
Last Updated: 20/07/21 6:25pm
The head of the organising committee for the Tokyo Olympics has not ruled out a last-minute cancellation of the Games.
Rising coronavirus cases have presented organisers with mounting challenges, with 10 more positive cases in the last 24 hours bringing the total number of people affected to 68.
Asked at a news conference if the Games, which are due to open on Friday, might still be cancelled, Toshiro Muto said he would keep an eye on infection numbers and hold discussions with organisers if necessary.
"We can't predict what will happen with the number of coronavirus cases. So we will continue discussions if there is a spike in cases," said Muto.
"We have agreed that based on the coronavirus situation, we will convene five-party talks again. At this point, the coronavirus cases may rise or fall, so we will think about what we should do when the situation arises."
Covid-19 cases are rising in Tokyo and the Games, postponed last year because of the pandemic, will be held without spectators.
Japan this month decided that participants would compete in empty venues to minimise the risk of further infections.
The opening ceremony will also take place without major Olympic sponsors, dealing another blow to a slimmed-down Games as more athletes tested positive for the coronavirus.
Muto, a former top financial bureaucrat with close ties to Japan's ruling party, is known for his careful choice of words, while organisers are facing a domestic public angry about coronavirus restrictions and concerned over a possible spike in cases triggered by Games attendees arriving from abroad.
Thomas Bach, the President of the International Olympic Committee, has defended the decision to reschedule the Games for this summer.
In his opening comments at the 138th IOC Session in Tokyo, Bach said: "Cancellation would have been the easy way for us.
"We could have drawn on the insurance that we had at the time and moved on to Paris 2024.
"But, in fact, cancellation was never an option for us - the IOC never abandons the athletes.
"Imagine for a moment what it would have meant if the leader of the Olympic movement, the IOC, would have added to the many doubts surrounding the Olympic Games, it would have poured fuel on to this fire.
"Our doubts could have become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The Olympic Games could have fallen to pieces.
"That is why we had to keep these doubts to ourselves."