Even if Japan can contain the coronavirus outbreak, the Summer Olympic Games "would not make sense" if other countries cannot send their athletes, Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso said on Wednesday.
Speaking in parliament, Aso, who is also Japan's finance minister, said: "As the prime minister said, it's desirable to hold the Olympics in an environment where everyone feels safe and happy. But that's not something Japan alone can decide."
Olympics-Plane leaves to collect Olympic flame
A plane sporting Tokyo 2020 livery departed Haneda International Airport on Wednesday bound for Athens to collect the Olympic flame, but there was no delegation from organisers onboard due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.
Tokyo 2020 said it chose not to send the high-level delegation, which was originally set to include organising committee president Yoshiro Mori and Olympics minister Seiko Hashimoto, to Greece due to the coronavirus.
Japan's ambassador to Greece will receive the flame at a handover ceremony, organisers said. Lower-level Tokyo 2020 officials who travelled to Greece last week will accompany the flame back to Japan.
Some 20 airline and airport staff waved the plane off with very little fanfare at the airport, which was almost empty as travel restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of the virus have lead to widespread flight cancellations.
The Olympic flame will arrive on Japanese soil on Friday at Matushima airbase and be greeted by another low key ceremony.Last updated: March 18 2020 08:19 AM