Shinzō Abe and Donald Trump held telephone talks today ©Getty Images

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe has told Donald Trump the country is preparing to hold the Olympic and Paralympic Games as planned after the United States President suggested postponing the event because of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, Abe reiterated his stance that Japan is planning to stage the event as scheduled during telephone talks requested by Trump to discuss the COVID-19 outbreak.

Concerns over the spread of the virus, which has so far killed 5,080 people and infected more than 138,000 worldwide, have fuelled rumours Tokyo 2020 could be postponed or cancelled.

But officials in Japan and from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have repeatedly insisted the Olympic Games, due to open on July 24, will go ahead as scheduled.

Tokyo 2020 President Yoshirō Mori earlier this week quickly quashed speculation the event might be postponed after an Executive Board member claimed the Games could be delayed by one or two years.

Trump said "I would say maybe they postpone it for a year" when asked about his views on the impact of the virus on the Games.

"I like that better than having empty stadiums all over the place," Trump said.

Tokyo 2020 and the IOC have repeatedly insisted the Games will go ahead despite the outbreak ©Getty Images
Tokyo 2020 and the IOC have repeatedly insisted the Games will go ahead despite the outbreak ©Getty Images

In response to Trump's comments - which the US President said he would not directly relay to Abe when they held talks today - Suga claimed the Japanese Government's stance "has not changed that we will coordinate closely with the IOC, organisers and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to steadily proceed with preparations".

"During the telephone conversation, the Prime Minister mentioned our country’s efforts toward holding the events," Suga added.

Japan has reported 700 cases and 10 deaths from the virus, but fears over its spread have prompted countries to impose travel restrictions and ban events with a certain number of participants.

The pandemic has caused major disruption to the sporting calendar, with numerous events and leagues postponed, suspended or cancelled.

Olympic qualifiers in several sports are among those to have been affected, raising concern for athletes about how they book their place at the Games.

A number of Tokyo 2020 test events have also either been cancelled or postponed, while others have gone ahead with volunteers used instead of athletes.

The Tokyo 2020 Torch lighting ceremony at Ancient Olympia took place this week, but only 100 invited guests were present.

Any decision on a possible cancellation or postponement of Tokyo 2020 rests with the IOC.

In the Host City Contract signed by Tokyo 2020 in 2013, the IOC has the right to terminate the Games should they not take place in 2020.

There is no reference to a postponement.

The IOC can also cancel the Games "in the event of war, civil disorder or boycott, or if the organisation believes that the safety of participants would be threatened ‘for any reason whatsoever’”.