• Kyodo

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Olympic minister Seiko Hashimoto said Tuesday she believes the postponed Tokyo Games should be held next year "at any cost" in consideration of the preparations being made by athletes and others involved with the tournament.

"All the people involved with the games are working together to prepare, and the athletes are also making considerable efforts toward next year under the circumstances they've been handed," Hashimoto said during a news conference.

"I think we have to hold the games at any cost," she said. "I want to concentrate all our efforts on measures against the coronavirus."

Hashimoto made the comments in response to remarks made by International Olympic Committee Vice President John Coates, head of the IOC's coordination commission, who told AFP on Monday that the games "will take place with or without COVID" as planned starting on July 23.

The Olympics had originally been scheduled to take place this summer between July 24-Aug. 9, followed by the Paralympics from Aug. 25-Sept. 6, before the global outbreak of the novel coronavirus forced the unprecedented one-year delay.

A government panel tasked with formulating steps to counter the coronavirus pandemic at the Tokyo Games held its first meeting Friday, in cooperation with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the local Olympic organizing committee.

The panel plans to have several more meetings before issuing a report on issues including easing travel restrictions for foreign athletes, anti-virus measures at the athletes village and games' venues, steps to be taken against infections and how to handle spectators.

During his regular press briefing on Tuesday, Tokyo 2020 spokesman Masa Takaya was not as bullish as Hashimoto about next year's Games but said things were moving in the right direction.

Organizers were encouraged that sports events were being held successfully around the world in recent months and that there was the possibility of more fans being allowed into stadiums for Japanese baseball and soccer games, he added.

"This has been a big, big encouragement for the staff members of Tokyo 2020," said Takaya. "We feel that is another step towards … where we can see sports in action in our society."

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