The International Olympic Committee announced Sunday that it will make a decision whether to postpone the 2020 Tokyo Games at some point in the next four weeks.
Consultation with Japanese public authorities, global sports officials, broadcasters and sponsors will deal with "scenario planning" for the July 24-Aug. 9 Games, the IOC said.
"The IOC is confident that it will have finalised these discussions within the next four weeks, and greatly appreciates the solidarity and partnership of the [national Olympic committees] and [international federations] in supporting the athletes and adapting Games planning," the IOC said as part of a lengthy statement.
Sunday's statement is the first one on record from the IOC affirming that the Olympics could be postponed -- after weeks of strong assurances that the Games would go forward as planned in July despite the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.
The statement added that canceling the Games is not under consideration, saying that such an action "would not solve any of the problems or help anybody."
Tokyo 2020 released a statement on Monday which supported the IOC's position.
"As the IOC has stated, due to the extreme complexity of the Games, a final decision has not been reached at this time, and discussions will be finalised within the next four weeks. Cancellation of the Tokyo 2020 Games is not on the agenda," the statement said.
"As we closely monitor infection trends, we will dedicate ourselves to examining detailed plans for different scenarios, including opening the Games on 24 July, in accordance with the agreement reached yesterday with the IOC. We will continue to work closely with all relevant organisations in order to meet the expectations of the athletes who have been training day and night and the fans who have been looking forward to the Games for so long."
Hours after the announcement on Sunday, World Athletics president Seb Coe sent a letter to IOC president Thomas Bach to share that holding the Olympics in July "is neither feasible nor desirable." He outlined a number of reasons, including competitive fairness, the likelihood athletes would overtrain if given a compressed schedule and the uncertainty caused by orders in many countries barring people from gyms and other workout venues.
"No one wants to see the Olympic Games postponed but ... we cannot hold the event at all costs, certainly not at the cost of athlete safety," he wrote. "A decision on the Olympic Games may become very obvious very quickly."
Lawrence Gostin, the director of the World Health Organization's center on global health law, told The Wall Street Journal on Sunday that the Games shouldn't go on in July.
"No one could say with any degree of confidence that the situation globally will be better," Gostin said. "Even if you're on the downturn in Asia and Japan, it would be on the upswing in many parts of the world. I could see the U.S. and Canada near peaking, and possibly in Mexico. I could see the curve of the pandemic on the way up in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East.
"Since this is a global event, it would be the height of folly to consider going forward, and that's if the borders opened, travel restrictions lifted and the airlines started flying."
The IOC release follows public calls in the past two days by USA Swimming, USA Track & Field and Global Athlete, a worldwide group representing Olympic hopefuls, that the Games should be postponed.
"As the world unites to limit the spread of Covid-19 virus, the IOC ... must do the same," Global Athlete said in a news release Sunday.
In a joint statement on Sunday, the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee and Athletes' Advisory Council said there is still "ambiguity" regarding the Games' status.
"The progress reflected in today's IOC update to the global athlete community is an important step in providing clarity, but our athlete community continues to face enormous ambiguity surrounding the 2020 Games in Tokyo," the statement said. "We remain steadfast in our recommendation that Team USA athletes continue to heed the advice of public health officials and prioritize their health and wellness over all else. At the same time we are eager to continue to explore alternatives to ensure all athletes have a robust and fulfilling Olympic and Paralympic experience, regardless of when that can safely occur."
National Olympic committees in Brazil and Slovenia also have called for a postponement to 2021. Norway's Olympic body said it did not want athletes going to Tokyo until the global health crisis is under control.
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency also believes the Games should be put off, CEO Travis Tygart told The Washington Post on Sunday.
"We agree the Games should be postponed, unfortunately, up to a year in fairness to athletes whose lives have been upended and to ensure they don't potentially become the dirtiest Games ever due to the significant reduction of anti-doping efforts due to COVID-19," Tygart said.
The IOC's change in strategy followed Bach's conference call with executive board members.
Bach also addressed athletes who wish to compete at the Tokyo Olympics in a public letter Sunday. Of the 11,000 athlete places available in 33 sports, about 4,700 have yet to be allocated.
"Human lives take precedence over everything, including the staging of the Games," Bach wrote. "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.
"I wish, and we all are working for this, that the hope so many athletes, NOCs and IFs from all five continents have expressed will be fulfilled: that at the end of this dark tunnel we are all going through together, not knowing how long it is, the Olympic flame will be a light at the end of this tunnel."
Any postponement of the Summer Games likely would impact the Tokyo Paralympics scheduled for Aug. 25-Sept. 6.
"As you can imagine, potentially changing the dates of the Olympic and Paralympic Games is a huge logistical challenge, and the IPC will support the IOC every step of the way," the International Paralympic Committee said.
ESPN's Kelly Cohen and The Associated Press contributed to this report.