Trump 'postpone' idea shot down by Japanese Olympic minister

TOKYO (AP) — President Donald Trump's suggestion to postpone the Tokyo Olympics for a year because of the spreading coronavirus was immediately shot down by Japan's Olympic minister.

“The IOC and the organizing committee are not considering cancellation or a postponement - absolutely not at all,” Seiko Hashimoto, an Olympic bronze medalist, told a news conference on Friday in Tokyo.

The International Olympic Committee and Tokyo organizers have stayed on message since the viral outbreak in China three months ago spread across Asia and then the globe: The games will open as scheduled on July 24.

“I just can't see having no people there. In other words, not allowing people,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Thursday. “Maybe, and this is just my idea, maybe they postpone it for a year.”

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Tokyo prepares for 2020 Olympics as coronavirus spreads
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Tokyo prepares for 2020 Olympics as coronavirus spreads
A man looks at an Olympic rings display installed off the shore of the Odaiba Marine Park in Tokyo on February 28, 2020. - The International Olympic Committee is "committed" to holding the 2020 Games in Tokyo as planned despite the widening new coronavirus outbreak, the body's president has pledged. (Photo by Kazuhiro NOGI / AFP) (Photo by KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP via Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - FEBRUARY 26: A woman wearing a face mask walks past the Olympic rings in front of the new National Stadium, the main stadium for the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, on February 26, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan. Concerns that the Tokyo Olympics may be postponed or cancelled are increasing as Japan confirms 862 cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and as some professional sporting contests are being called off or rescheduled and some major Japanese corporations ask for people to work from home. (Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - JANUARY 24: Fireworks explode as Olympic rings are illuminated for the first time to mark 6 months to go to the Olympic games at Odaiba Marine Park on January 24, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by David Mareuil/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
The New National Stadium, a venue for the opening and closing ceremonies at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, is seen from Shibuya Sky observation deck in Tokyo, Tuesday, March 3, 2020. The Japanese government has indicated it sees the next couple of weeks as crucial to containing the spread of COVID-19, which began in China late last year. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Tourists take pictures of the Olympics rings Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, in the Odaiba section of Tokyo. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
People wait in line to take pictures with the Olympic rings near the New National Stadium, Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
A woman removes her mask before taking pictures with the mascots of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo, Feb. 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach delivers a statement on the COVID-19 situation during a meeting of the executive board at the IOC headquarters in Lausanne on March 3, 2020. - The COVID-19 which has already killed more than 3000 people in the World will be at the center of a meeting of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on March 3 and 4, 2020 in Lausanne less than five months before the opening ceremony of the Olympics in Tokyo. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP) (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)
A cameraman films the Olympic Rings at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) headquarters in Lausanne on March 3, 2020. - The COVID-19 which has already killed more than 3000 people in the World will be at the center of a meeting of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on March 3 and 4, 2020 in Lausanne less than five months before the opening ceremony of the Olympics in Tokyo. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP) (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - MARCH 01: A security guard wearing a face mask guards a road near the route of the Tokyo Marathon on March 1, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan. The 2020 Tokyo Marathon has been restricted to elite runners only as measures get underway in Japan to combat the Covid-19 virus. A growing number of events and sporting fixtures have been cancelled or postponed while some businesses are closing or asking their employees to work from home. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has also asked schools to close for around a month from tomorrow as coronavirus cases increase and concerns mount over the effect the outbreak will have on the Tokyo Olympics. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
This photo taken on February 29, 2020 shows a protester holding placards during a demonstration against the Olympics, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and nuclear energy, near the "J-Village" which will host the start of the Olympic torch relay in Naraha, Fukushima prefecture. - Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto said on February 26 the torch relay scheduled to begin March 26 in Fukushima and travel across the country would not be cancelled, though he acknowledged adjustments might be necessary, due to the COVID-19 outbreak. (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP) (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images)
This photo taken on February 29, 2020 shows a woman holding a placard during a demonstration against the Olympics, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and nuclear energy, near the "J-Village" which will host the start of the Olympic torch relay in Naraha, Fukushima prefecture. - Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto said on February 26 the torch relay scheduled to begin March 26 in Fukushima and travel across the country would not be cancelled, though he acknowledged adjustments might be necessary, due to the COVID-19 outbreak. (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP) (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images)
A masked security guard stands in front an entrance of the National Stadium, venue of the upcoming Olympics, in Tokyo on February 28, 2020. - The International Olympic Committee is "committed" to holding the 2020 Games in Tokyo as planned despite the widening new coronavirus outbreak, the body's president has pledged. (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP) (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - FEBRUARY 27: A couple wearing face masks take photographs outside the Tokyo Dome where a number of events including pop concerts have been cancelled because of concerns over the Covid-19 virus, on February 27, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan. A growing number of events and sporting fixtures are being cancelled or postponed around Japan while some businesses are asking their employees to work from home and some schools are closing as Covid-19 cases continue to increase and concerns mount over the possibility that the epidemic will force the postponement or even cancellation of the Tokyo Olympics. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
A picture taken on February 26, 2020 shows the Olympics rings next to the IOC headquarters in Lausanne. - The COVID-19 which has already killed more than 3000 people in the World will be at the center of a meeting of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on March 3 and 4, 2020 in Lausanne less than five months before the opening ceremony of the Olympics in Tokyo. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP) (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - FEBRUARY 26: A pedestrian wearing a face mask walks past a display promoting the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games on February 26, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan. Concerns that the Tokyo Olympics may be postponed or cancelled are increasing as Japan confirms 862 cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and as some professional sporting contests are being called off or rescheduled and some major Japanese corporations ask for people to work from home. (Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - FEBRUARY 26: A woman wearing a face mask uses a smartphone as she takes a photograph in front of the Olympic rings at night on February 26, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan. Concerns that the Tokyo Olympics may be postponed or cancelled are increasing as Japan confirms 862 cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and as some professional sporting contests are being called off or rescheduled and some major Japanese corporations ask for people to work from home. (Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - 2020/02/25: view of barricades at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic / Paralympic Village construction site in Tokyo. After the events at the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship in Yokohama Harbour concerning the COVID-19 Coronavirus and the management of Japanese authorities, voices were raised if the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games should be relocated to a different country. Sparking a discussion internationally. (Photo by Stanislav Kogiku/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - 2020/02/17: Photos of women taken posing behind the Olympic Rings near the Japan Olympic Museum and the New National Stadium in Tokyo. The stadium will serve as the main stadium for the opening and closing ceremonies and for the track and field events at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. (Photo by Stanislav Kogiku/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
A runner holding an Olympic torch practices lighting a cauldron during a rehearsal of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics torch relay in Tokyo on February 15, 2020. (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP) (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images)
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Television broadcasters and sponsors have billions invested in the Olympics, and the crowded international sports calendar has little space for pushing the games back a year. Holding the Olympics without fans has been floated, as has simply canceling the Olympics, which has only happened during wartime.

“As best we can — so athletes will have no confusion or uncertainty — we will put in our maximum effort,” Hashimoto said. She competed in four Winter Olympics as a speed skater, winning bronze in 1992, and three Summer Olympics as a cyclist.

A cancellation or postponement will ripple in thousands of directions, hitting sponsor, television, 11,000 Olympic and 4,400 Paralympic athletes, staffs, airlines, hotels, and $1 billion lost in ticket sales. It also hurts 80,000 unpaid volunteers who will miss a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The IOC oversaw an Olympic flame-lighting ceremony on Thursday in Greece, another sign it hopes to go ahead in 4 1/2 months. The flame is to arrive in Japan on March 20 and will begin a four-month relay around the country on March 26.

Tokyo organizers have downsized the torch arrival ceremony and will announce a week before the relay begins if crowds will be limited, or the route will be changed.

“This ceremony demonstrates once more our commitment to the success of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020,” Bach said in Greece. He lauded officials who are “taking so many significant measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus.”

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