As the International Olympic Committee begins considering a potential postponement of the Tokyo Olympics amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Japanese Olympic Committee President Yasuhiro Yamashita told reporters on Monday night that the organization would accept such an adjournment if it were a decision to protect the safety of athletes.

“Both the IOC and the organizing committee have put the security and safety of the athletes as their top priority,” Yamashita said. “We’ve been aiming to start (the games) on July 24. But as the coronavirus keeps spreading, I understand that we have to take postponement into consideration from that standpoint.”

Stressing that there is still a possibility for the games to kick off as scheduled, Yamashita said that if the Olympics are to be pushed back, the length of the delay would be a difficult issue to resolve.

The 62-year-old said that it would perhaps be better for organizers preparing for the games, including those in charge of the venues, to be given ample time in order to get ready for the new dates. But as for the athletes, he said that a shorter postponement may be ideal.

“What would happen to the athletes if there is a longer postponement?” said Yamashita, who won gold in the open-weight class at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics judo competition. “Maybe trials would need to be held again. And for those who have trained to reach their peak this summer, or for those who thought it would be their last time competing (before retiring), it would be a tough decision to make either way, regardless of the length of the delay.”

He added: “If we are considering the athletes, maybe it’d be better if they wouldn’t have to wait too long.”

Yamashita emphasized that the Olympics and Paralympics are “national projects that take place once every 50, 100 years.” Asked what the JOC would do about its immense development costs for its athletes, he said that it would be one of the broad topics that the organization would have to reexamine.

“In order for the games to be successful, it’s important that athletes of the host nation perform well,” said Yamashita, who also serves as an IOC member.

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