The head of the Japan Olympic Committee (JOC) said on Monday he had to consider postponing the Games among his options amid increasing calls from committees around the world to delay the Olympics due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“From the athletes’ point of view of safety and security, we have to come to a stage where we cannot help but consider things including postponement,” JOC President Yasuhiro Yamashita told reporters on Monday. However, he said too long a delay would be a burden to athletes given the possibility of having to qualify again, for example.

On Sunday the International Olympic Committee paved the way for the Tokyo Games to be postponed after giving itself a four-week deadline to consider its options. While the IOC has emphatically ruled out cancelling the Olympics, it said it will consider a scaled down Games as well as delaying them for a few months or, more likely, a year.

On Monday Canada became the first country to warn that it won’t send its athletes to the Tokyo Olympics unless they are postponed for a year.

The Canadian Olympic Committee said holding the Games as planned would threaten the health of its athletes, “their families and the broader Canadian community for athletes to continue training for these Games”.

“In fact, it runs counter to the public health advice which we urge all Canadians to follow,” it said in a statement, hours after the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, conceded for the first time that postponement was now a possibility if the Games could not be held in their “complete form”.

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