The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has ruled out canceling the Summer Games in Tokyo, instead giving itself one month to decide on potentially postponing the event.
The latter is believed to be the most likely outcome, but a "scaled-down" version of the Games is also being considered," reports Dan Roan of the BBC.
The IOC had remained adamant in recent weeks that this summer's event, due to begin with the opening ceremony on July 24, would go ahead as planned. But in the wake of growing calls from athletes and national Olympic committees to suspend proceedings due to the global coronavirus outbreak, the IOC appears to be changing its stance.
In a lengthy statement released Sunday, IOC president Thomas Bach acknowledged the possibility of delaying the Games.
"Human lives take precedence over everything, including the staging of the Games. The IOC wants to be part of the solution. Therefore we have made it our leading principle to safeguard the health of everyone involved, and to contribute to containing the virus," Bach said.
He noted that discussions are underway about a possible postponement, a scenario he calls an "extremely complex" challenge.
"We are working very hard, and we are confident that we will have finalized these discussions within the next four weeks," Bach added.
Cancelation is not on the agenda, though, with Bach saying it "would not solve any problem and would help nobody."
Athletes across the world are advocating for the Games to be put on hold due to the ever-spreading coronavirus crisis. Earlier this week, Canadian hockey legend Hayley Wickenheiser, a member of the IOC's Athletes Commission and a decorated six-time Olympian, was scathing in her criticism of the governing body's initial approach to the situation.
"I think the IOC insisting this will move ahead with such conviction is insensitive and irresponsible given the state of humanity. We don't know what's happening in the next 24 hours, let alone the next three months," Wickenheiser said on Twitter.
Both USA Swimming and Track and Field have since called for the Games to be delayed, with the Norwegian Olympic Committee following suit.
Global Athlete, an international organization representing Olympic hopefuls, urged the IOC to "place athlete safety and welfare first" by postponing the Games until the contagion is under control.
Confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease the new coronavirus causes, have surpassed 300,000 worldwide. To date, nearly 14,000 people have died.