The families of athletes competing at the Tokyo Olympics could be barred from entering Japan to watch them, the Games president has suggested in an interview with local media.

The comments came as reports said Japan's government has decided to exclude overseas fans from the coronavirus-delayed Games to reduce the risk of outbreaks.

The decision on foreign fans is expected to be announced when Games organisers and officials from the Japanese and Tokyo governments meet the heads of the International Olympic and Paralympic Committees, likely next week.

And Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto appeared to pour cold water on the prospect of making athletes' families exempt from the ban, telling reporters it would be "difficult".

"This is a chance they may only get once in their lives, so on an emotional level I want families to be able to watch," Hashimoto was quoted as saying by the Mainichi Shimbun daily late Tuesday.

Tokyo Olympics chief Seiko Hashimoto said it would be 'difficult' to accommodate athletes' families
Tokyo Olympics chief Seiko Hashimoto said it would be 'difficult' to accommodate athletes' families POOL / Rodrigo Reyes Marin

"But we have to think about Japan's medical system, so with a heavy heart I have to say it's difficult."

On Tuesday, Kyodo news agency said the Japanese government had concluded it was "not possible" to allow overseas fans due to "concerns among the Japanese public over the coronavirus and the fact that more contagious variants have been detected in many countries".

The Asahi Shimbun daily said the IOC had asked Japan to make exceptions for overseas guests linked to sponsors, and that the government was considering the request.

A poll by the Yomiuri Shimbun published this week found that more than 75 percent of Japanese opposed overseas fans attending the Games.

Around 900,000 tickets have reportedly been sold outside Japan.