Amidst the major coronavirus outbreak, Japan's Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto on Tuesday said that the Tokyo 2020 Games could be moved from the summer until later this year.
In a response to a question in Japan's parliament, Hashimoto said Tokyo's contract with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) "calls for the Games to be held within 2020", as quoted by BBC Sport.
She added that "could be interpreted as allowing a postponement".
The Tokyo Olympics are being threatened by coronavirus which has led to 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.
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."
IOC president Thomas Bach, speaking at the opening of the Olympic body's two-day executive board meeting in Lausanne, said: "We are preparing for a successful Olympic Games, Tokyo 2020."
Many sporting events around the world have either been cancelled or postponed in the wake of the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
More than 3,100 people have died and over 90,000 have been infected in more than 60 countries worldwide.
The vast majority of cases have been reported in China, but South Korea, Italy and Iran have emerged as the countries with the most cases outside the epicentre.