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Tokyo Olympics CEO Doesn't Dismiss The Idea That Games Could Still Be Called Off

The CEO of the Tokyo Olympics' organizing committee is not dismissing the idea that the Games could still be canceled if COVID-19 cases continue to rise, sending a jolt through the massive event that is set to begin in a matter of days. Toshiro Muto says officials will make decisions about the viability of the Games based on what happens.

Muto said he can't speculate about whether the rate of new coronavirus cases will rise or fall. But in his response to a question about whether the Olympics, already delayed by a year, could still be canceled, he did not rule it out.

"What would happen if the infection were to spread further — well, I think when that happens we have to fully consult," he said through a translator at a news conference.

The infection rate will be discussed at upcoming five-party talks, Muto added, referring to sessions that include Tokyo organizers and local and government officials, along with representatives of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

"The infection may spread, or the infection may be brought under better control," Muto said. "When we see a concrete situation going forward, then we will consider the matter."

The Tokyo leader's remarks fell short of the confidence recently expressed by International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, who declared last week that there was "zero" risk that athletes might transmit the virus to each other or to Tokyo residents.

Nearly 70 people in Tokyo who are closely associated with the Olympics have now tested positive for COVID-19, officials announced on Tuesday. That figure includes five athletes and five journalists, along with 36 contractors and 17 staff members.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.