If the Tokyo Olympics cannot be held in 2021, then they will probably not take place at all. That is the opinion of Thomas Bach, IOC (International Olympic Committee chief), who has responded to remarks made by Shinz Abe, the Japanese Prime Minister.
In March, the decision was taken to delay the Games by a year because of the coronavirus pandemic, but now Abe has opined that the Olympics cannot take place in his country at all until the virus is contained, and that currently looks as far away as ever at the moment.
On Wednesday, several grim milestones were reached. The number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 globally passed 5 million, with figures from the World Health Organisation (WHO) reporting the highest daily increase in new cases since the crisis began. At the same time, the WHO has predicted now that up to a quarter of a billion Africans could catch the disease in the first year alone.
Even in Japan, which was one of the last countries where the disease took hold, there have been more than 17,000 confirmed cases and 800 reported deaths.
Against this backdrop, Abe is understandably gloomy, and Bach is sympathetic, arguing that you cannot employ thousands of people indefinitely on an organising committee.
There are also broader sporting considerations. The delay of the Games by a year had a knock-on effect, with many sporting federations, such as athletics and swimming, delaying their world championships, which were scheduled for 2021 until the following year or later.
There is only so long that can go on though, and, at some stage, the original sporting calendar, with some events planned years in advance, will need to take supremacy again. At the same time, the position of the athletes needs to be respected, and certainty provided to them as to whether to commit months, or even years of their lives, training for an event that may never happen.
Despite all this, for the moment at least, the IOC remains committed to the concept of the Olympic Games proceeding in Tokyo next year, and have begun scenario planning for ways that they could be staged, including placing all the athletes in quarantine both before, and during, the Games itself.