The Tokyo Olympics would have to be scrapped if the already postponed event cannot be held next year, the head of the International Olympic Committee has said.
In March, the IOC and Japanese government took the unprecedented decision to postpone the Olympics, which had been due to start in July 2020, for a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said the multi-sports event cannot take place in 2021 unless the virus is contained and IOC president Thomas Bach said he understood his position.
“Quite frankly, I have some understanding for this, because you can’t forever employ 3,000 or 5,000 people in an organizing committee,” Bach told the BBC in an interview published on Wednesday.
“You can’t, every year, change the entire sports schedule worldwide of all the major federations. You can’t have the athletes being in uncertainty.”
Bach said Abe has “made it clear to him that there is no plan B” if the games are further delayed.
Along with massive financial costs, the delay threw the sporting calendar into chaos with many sports being forced to postpone their own world championships to accommodate the Olympics.
The IOC expects to bear costs of up to $800m for its part in the organization of the competition next year, according to Bach.
From the IOC’s point of view, a further delay would eat into the build-up time for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing and the 2024 summer games in Paris.
Bach’s comments echoed a similar assertion last month by the Tokyo Games chief Yoshiro Mori, who said the event would have to be canceled in case of another delay.
The coronavirus has infected more than 17,100 people in Japan, causing 797 deaths.
The Olympics were last canceled in 1944 due to World War II but have never previously been delayed in their 124-year modern history.