Japan's Olympic minister on President Trump's suggestion coronavirus could postpone Games: 'Absolutely not'

President Donald Trump’s suggestion that the Tokyo Olympics could be postponed for a year due to coronavirus fears was met with an immediate rebuke from Japan’s Olympic minister, according to the Associated Press.

“The IOC and the organizing committee are not considering cancellation or a postponement — absolutely not at all,” Seiko Hashimoto reportedly said in a news conference on Friday in Tokyo.

“As best we can — so athletes will have no confusion or uncertainty — we will put in our maximum effort,” she added.

Hashimoto is a four-time Olympian that has won bronze as a speed skater in 1992 and competed in three Summer Olympics as a cyclist.

Outside of one suggestion that the fate of the Olympics could be decided late as May, Olympics authorities have strongly insisted the Games will not be postponed or cancelled.

Trump told reporters at the White House on Thursday that he’s not sure that will be the case.

“I just can’t see having no people there. In other words, not allowing people,” Trump said, per the AP. “Maybe, and this is just my idea, maybe they postpone it for a year.”

Two women take a selfie with the Olympic rings in the background in the Odaiba section of Tokyo, Thursday, March 12, 2020. Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike spoke Thursday after the World Health Organization labeled the spreading virus a "pandemic," a decision almost certain to affect the Tokyo Olympics. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some it can cause more severe illness. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
The fate of the Olympics could hang in the balance over the next few months. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Coronavirus has sports industry on lockdown

With billions of dollars at stake between ticket sales, tourism, television broadcasts and sponsorships, the coronavirus threat would likely have to persist and even worsen to move the Olympic machine off a schedule set nearly a decade in advance.

The Olympic flame-lighting ceremony went ahead on schedule in Greece on Thursday, with the torch scheduled to arrive in Japan on March 20.

Of course, the outlook for the rest of the sports world isn’t exactly positive at this point. The NBA, NHL, MLB, NCAA, MLS, Spain’s La Liga, Italy’s Serie A and France’s Ligue 1 have all suspended, postponed or cancelled their seasons, and several marquee events such as the Indian Wells tennis tournament and the PGA Tour’s Players Championship have also received the axe.

None of those leagues have committed a stoppage that will reach as far as July 24, the date of the Olympics Opening Ceremony, though.

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