The postponed Tokyo Olympics could be held in the spring of 2021, International Olympics Committee president Thomas Bach has indicated.
The IOC and Japanese organisers announced on Tuesday that the Games were being delayed until next year because of the worsening effect of the coronavirus pandemic across the globe.
Bach, who said Japan remained "very confident" in its ability to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer right up until last weekend, indicated that a task force would now look at all options in 2021 for rescheduling.
"The agreement is that we want to organise this Olympic Games at the latest in the summer of 2021. That means that this task force can consider the broader picture," he said. "This is not just restricted to the summer months. All the options are on the table before and including the summer 2021."
British hurdler Dai Greene immediately criticised the possibility of a 'cherry blossom' Olympics, writing on Twitter: "When do we get the chance to compete and qualify for a spring Games? This summer will be sparse at best. Someone have a word."
Bach said he hoped the task force, which has been called Here We Go, would be able to announce a decision on a new date for the Games as soon as possible, but that the "quality" of the decision was the key thing.
Here We Go will hold a conference call with the 33 international Olympic sports federations today to discuss options, Bach said, before further consultations with other bodies such as athletes' representative groups, sponsors and broadcasters.
Bach took part in a conference call with reporters from around the world yesterday, and was asked whether the IOC would be prepared to further postpone, or even cancel, the Games if the pandemic had not eased by next summer.
"We have established the principle that we have always been following, and that we will be following in the future, that we will organise a Games only in a safe environment for all the participants," the German said.
He said cancellation had been an "option on the table" when discussions around postponements were held over the weekend but said it was clear "from the beginning" that it was not an option the IOC favoured.
"Our mission is to organise Olympic Games and to make the Olympic dreams of athletes come true," he added.
Bach discussed the timeline of events which had led to Tuesday's postponement.
Japan were "very confident" of hosting the Games as recently as the weekend, but Bach admitted the "dynamic" spread of the virus in other parts of the world became a growing consideration.
"The focus shifted more and more to the international world, because we could see on the one hand the progress being made in Japan fighting the virus and the efficiency of the measures being taken, but we also had to see on the other side that the virus was spreading so rapidly that it became more and more a question of whether the world could travel to Japan and whether Japan could afford, in the spirit of containing the virus, to really invite the world," he explained.
Bach said that after the "pretty alarming" World Health Organisation declaration concerning the acceleration in spread of the virus, he spoke to the Tokyo organisers on Monday to say that a decision on postponement should be taken during the scheduled Tuesday conference call between Bach and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe.
Bach said the Japanese leader initially suggested the decision to postpone should be announced as a decision of the IOC, rather than of the country, but that he changed his mind during the call.
However, Bach said: "After consultation in this phone call (Abe) came to the conclusion that this decision cannot be a unilateral decision of the IOC, but must be a joint decision because we need to be in full agreement, we need to be united."