Tokyo Olympics chief Muto does not rule out 11th-hour cancellation of Games

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The head of the organising committee for the Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday did not rule out a last-minute cancellation of the global sporting showpiece, amid rising coronavirus cases that have presented organisers with mounting challenges.

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.

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“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 rising 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.

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The opening ceremony will also take place without major Olympic sponsors, the companies said on Tuesday, 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.

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