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Japan Olympic Minister: Games could be held any time in 2020

FILE - In this Sept. 11, 2019, file photo, then newly appointed Minister in charge of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games Seiko Hashimoto speaks during a press conference at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo. Hashimoto's response to a question in the upper house of Parliament on Tuesday, March 3, 2020, implies the Olympics could be held later in the year and would not have to start on July 24, 2020. Tokyo's Olympics are being threatened by a fast-spreading virus that has shut down most sports events and Olympic-related events in Japan. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File)

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s Olympic minister said Tuesday the contract to hold the games only specifies the event has to be held during 2020.

Seiko Hashimoto’s response to a question in the upper house of parliament implies the Olympics could be held later in the year and would not have to start on July 24 as planned.

The Tokyo Olympics are being threatened by a fast-spreading virus that has been blamed for 12 deaths in Japan and has shut down most sports competitions and Olympic-related events in the country.

“The IOC has the right to cancel the games only if they are not held during 2020,” Hashimoto told parliament. “This can be interpreted to mean the games can be postponed as long as they are held during the calendar year.”

IOC officials and Tokyo organizers have repeatedly said they expect the Olympics to open on schedule. Others have suggested the spreading virus could force cancellation, postponement or moving events to other cities.

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Asked if she believed the Olympics should be still held even if the coronavirus outbreak is worse than it is now, Hashimoto said: “We are making the utmost effort so that we don’t have to face that situation.”

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