The Japanese government has privately decided to cancel the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, a new report claims.
The report in The Times reveals Japan has given up on any hope of hosting the Games and will now look for hosting rights to the 2032 Games instead.
In a day of high drama, the report was immediately denied by both New Zealand and Australian Olympic officials.
The 2020 Olympics was pushed back to 2021 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, but authorities rescheduled with a start date of July 23.
The report, citing a senior government official, revealed there is agreement within the ruling coalition the pandemic has made it impossible for the world's biggest sporting event to go ahead.
"No one wants to be the first to say so, but the consensus is that it's too difficult," the source said, according to Reuters.
"Personally I don't think it's going to happen."
Publicly, organisers are still adamant the Games can go ahead, and say they can be held safely even if the virus is not under control.
"It's precisely because we're in this situation that we need to remember the value of the Olympics — that humankind can co-exist peacefully through sport," Tokyo Organising Committee CEO Toshiro Muto told AFP.
However, the New Zealand Olympic Committee rubbished the report, saying organisers are committed to holding the Games this year.
"Both the Japanese Government and the IOC have this week strongly reaffirmed their commitment to the Tokyo Olympic Games taking place in July and August this year," an NZOC spokesperson said.
"The focus of the NZOC remains on preparing our athletes and wider team for the Olympic Games in this unprecedented environment."
Australian Olympic Committee chef de mission for the 2021 Games Ian Chesterman also insisted the report was nothing more than a rumour when speaking on radio Friday.
"It's unfortunate that our athlete's have to deal with this rumour mill," he told Triple M.
The AOC also released a statement insisting the preliminary plans for a joint Queensland bid to host the 2032 Games have not been impacted by the report of the Tokyo Games moving to 2032.
"The AOC is continuing its planning to ensuring the Australian Olympic Team arrives in Tokyo, competes and returns home safe and COVID-free," the statement claims.
"The AOC, Federal Government, Queensland Government and Brisbane City Council are continuing to progress the candidature for the Olympic Games to be held in Queensland in 2032 — and that process continues."
The cancellation would be a heartbreaking blow for thousands of athletes around the world.
It is also a heavy blow for Japan with budget documents from a Japanese government audit last month reportedly revealing estimates the Games could cost taxpayers up to $33 billion. It was forecast to be the most expensive Olympics in the movement's history — and there now seems no way for the country to see a return on its investment.
Japan's opposition leaders have this week piled further pressure on the Suga government to cancel or delay the Games, The Japan Times reports.
Yuichiro Tamaki, head of the Democratic Party for the People, said it was "difficult" to hold the Games at all.
Japanese Communist Party leader Kazuo Shii also demanded the Games be cancelled and for resources to be diverted to battling the pandemic.
It follows a turbulent week for Olympic officials after senior Olympic figures around the world admitted it was impossible for the event to go ahead amid current global travel restrictions.
Tokyo and other parts of Japan are currently under a state of emergency to quash a surge in virus infections, and polls indicate that public support for the Olympics has plunged.
Opinion polls show that 80 per cent of Japanese are against the Games going ahead in July and August.
During the pandemic, Japan has recorded 347,000 virus infections with almost 90,000 in Tokyo alone. There have been around 4700 deaths.
Keith Mills, who was deputy chairman of the London 2012 organising committee, said earlier this week the Games were unlikely to go ahead.
He said Tokyo organisers were running out of time to make the decision.
"Personally, sitting here, looking at the pandemic around the world, in South America, North America, Africa and Europe, it looks unlikely," Mr Mills told the BBC.
"If I were sitting in the shoes of the organisers, I would be making plans for a cancellation and I'm sure they do, but I think they will leave it until absolutely the last minute in case the situation improves dramatically.
"But it is a tough call."
World Athletics president Sebastian Coe, however, said he still thought the Games would go ahead.
"I don't think it will be cancelled," Coe told Sky News.
"It'll be a challenge, we know. It's pretty self-evident. There will be adaptations.
"I think the Games will take place but they will look different."
Organisers were reportedly considering hosting the events without spectators, but the 2021 Games have now become the highest-profile sporting casualty of the pandemic.
The Olympics were called off in 1916, 1940 and 1944 due to world wars, but this would be the first cancellation in peacetime.
Paris is due to host the Games in 2024 and Los Angeles has already been chosen as the venue for 2028.