Will the Tokyo Olympics take place this year, or even at all? 

Credit: REUTERS

The delayed Tokyo 2020 Games "could go either way", a senior Japanese government minister has admitted as Covid-19 infection rates surge in the city and beyond.

Fresh doubt from one of the nation’s cabinet ministers comes despite Britain’s chef de mission telling The Telegraph he was “supremely confident” they will be on.

The roll-out of the vaccine is likely to be a race against time amid a global resurgence in cases, including record infection levels recently in Japan.

"We need to do the best we can to prepare for the Games at this moment, but it could go either way," said Taro Kono, administrative and regulatory reform minister, at the Reuters Next conference.

Kono, an outspoken figure in Japan, said the organising committee "must be thinking about Plan B, Plan C" even though Tokyo 2020 officials insist they have "never discussed" a further postponement. 

"We have 100 per cent concentration and focus on the delivery of a safe and secure Games this summer," spokeswoman Masa Takaya told broadcasters.

A state of emergency was this week extended beyond the Tokyo region, where coronavirus infections in the capital exceed 1,500. Sir Matthew Pinsent is among sporting figures calling for the games to be scrapped – with Tokyo offered the 2024 Games instead – after it emerged more than four-fifths of people in Japan now want them cancelled or postponed.

"Anything is possible, but as the host of the Games we need to do whatever we can, so that when it’s a Go, we can have a good Olympic Games," Kono added. 

"The Olympic Committee must be thinking about Plan B, Plan C. But the situation is not easy."

Mark England, of the British Olympic Association, had maintained on Wednesday that it is “full steam ahead” in its planning for the Games, which had already been rescheduled from last summer.

Despite the Japanese public’s appetite for the sporting extravaganza waning, with 77 per cent of respondents in a survey this week saying it should be cancelled or postponed, the Olympics remains a priority for Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Ministers have said repeatedly the decision over whether to go ahead rests with the International Olympic Committee and that their agreement to continue preparations stands.

Four-time gold medallist Pinsent, one of Britain’s greatest Olympians, said the Paris and Los Angeles Games should be moved to 2028 and 2032, respectively, if the Japanese capital was willing to delay its own hosting by another three years. The IOC had earlier said they would not delay the Games beyond 2021.

The Tokyo 2020 Committee has indicated that it will need to decide on a limit on spectators and restrictions on entering the country from overseas by this spring.