‘Anything can happen’ with Tokyo Games: Japan minister

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese cabinet minister Taro Kono said “anything can happen” in regard to the postponed Tokyo Olympics, raising more doubts about the games scheduled to begin in just over six months.

Kono’s statements contradict the official government position and that of the local organising committee. They have both said repeatedly the games will take place and will be “safe and secure”.

Kono opened the door to a possible cancellation. He also gave more credence to recent poll results that show about 80 per cent in Japan think the Olympics shouldn’t happen, or will not happen.

“I should say anything is possible,” Kono said at a conference.

Kono is the former defence minister and is now the minister for administrative and regulatory reform.

“It could go either way,” he added.

People walk by a banner of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympic games in Tokyo. PHOTO: AP

Much of Japan is under an emergency order with new cases rising across the country. Japan has handled the coronavirus better than most countries and has attributed about 4,000 deaths of COVID-19.

The Olympics are to open on July 23 followed by the Paralympics on August 24.

In a statement, Tokyo organisers did not address Kano’s comments but said that Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga “expressed his determination to hold the games”.

“The situation surrounding COVID-19 is changing every moment,” the statement said.

“We expect that the series of measures being implemented by the government of Japan, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and other prefectural authorities will help improve the situation.”

Kono suggested few fans were likely to be attending with the focus on 15,400 Olympic and Paralympic athletes who must enter Japan. They will be accompanied by tens of thousands of officials, judges, volunteers, media, and broadcasters.

“We need to think about those people who come and watch, but we basically need to focus on the athletes first,” he said. “And then if it’s possible, we need to get the tourists in.”

“So from now until summer, anything is possible,” he added.

Kono is known for his forthright manner and has been clear about his interest in being prime minister. He attended Georgetown University in the United States and did the interview in English.

“The Olympic committee must have been thinking about Plan B, Plan C, whatever,” Kono said. “I mean, the situation is not easy. There must be some backup plan.”

IOC President Thomas Bach and Yoshiro Mori, the president of the organising committee, have said the Olympics cannot be postponed again and will be cancelled if they can’t be held.