Tokyo 2020: Canada will not send athletes to Olympics and Paralympics
Last Updated: 23/03/20 11:54am
Team Canada has announced they will not be sending athletes to the Tokyo Olympics due to the coronavirus pandemic, while the Australian Olympic Committee has called for it to be postponed and told its athletes to prepare for a Games in 2021 instead.
The IOC said on Sunday they would make a final decision on whether or not the Olympics would go ahead as planned within the next four weeks.
But with many athletes unable to train properly due to COVID-19 and ongoing concerns over the threat and spread of the virus, Team Canada has taken the matter into their own hands.
"The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC), backed by their Athletes' Commissions, National Sports Organizations and the Government of Canada, have made the difficult decision to not send Canadian teams to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in the summer of 2020," it said in a statement.
"The COC and CPC urgently call on the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to postpone the Games for one year and we offer them our full support in helping navigate all the complexities that rescheduling the Games will bring.
"While we recognize the inherent complexities around a postponement, nothing is more important than the health and safety of our athletes and the world community.
"This is not solely about athlete health - it is about public health. With COVID-19 and the associated risks, it is not safe for our athletes, and the health and safety of their families and the broader Canadian community for athletes to continue training towards these Games. In fact, it runs counter to the public health advice which we urge all Canadians to follow.
"The COC and CPC reviewed the letter and news release sent Sunday by the IOC. We are thankful to the IOC for its assurance that it will not be cancelling the Tokyo 2020 Games and appreciative that it understands the importance of accelerating its decision-making regarding a possible postponement.
"We also applaud the IOC for acknowledging that safeguarding the health and wellness of nations and containing the virus must be our paramount concern. We are in the midst of a global health crisis that is far more significant than sport.
"The COC and CPC would like to thank our athletes, partners and the Canadian sport community for their patience and for lending us their voices during these unprecedented times.
"We remain hopeful that the IOC and IPC will agree with the decision to postpone the Games as a part of our collective responsibility to protect our communities and work to contain the spread of the virus."
While stopping short of saying they would not be sending athletes to Japan, Australia also cast doubt on their involvement.
Australian Team Chef de Mission for Tokyo, Ian Chesterman, has been gathering the opinions of athletes from 25 different sports and he is in no doubt the Olympics should be postponed.
Chesterman: "It's clear the Games can't be held in July. Our athletes have been magnificent in their positive attitude to training and preparing, but the stress and uncertainty has been extremely challenging for them.
"They have also shouldered the burden of concern for their peers around the world. That has been a consistent message to me.
"While there will still be much to work out as a result of this change, the timing will allow athletes from around the world to properly prepare with the hope the coronavirus crisis will be under control.
"We are aware that for many such a postponement will present a range of new issues. But when the world does come together at the Tokyo Olympic Games they can be a true celebration of sport and humanity."
Meanwhile, Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike expects the IOC to find a solution for holding the Tokyo Summer Olympics that does not include cancellation.
Koike said she will negotiate with the IOC during its upcoming meetings with Japanese public authorities, global sports officials, broadcasters and sponsors that will deal with scenario planning for the Olympics, which are scheduled to start July 24, but said that cancelling the Games is not under consideration.
"I have continuously said that there will be no cancellations [of the Olympics]. I've also talked about the health of athletes, the health of Tokyo residents, and the fight against the world's coronavirus.
"Yesterday, it was stated that they [the IOC] would take four weeks, but stated before that there will be no cancellation. Regarding this point, I am glad they share the same idea as me.
"Over the next four weeks, there are a lot of issues, but I would like to negotiate firmly with the IOC, the Organising Committee, and Tokyo on what scenarios are actually possible."
What now for Tokyo 2020?
Geraint Hughes has been following the story and has analysed what decisions the IOC need to make ahead of the Olympics.
Why delay the announcement?
One thing that's striking me is, why four weeks? It's surely delaying the inevitable. Every other sport has made a postponement or suspension. The IOC has bought themselves some breathing space. There are a lot of discussions that need to go on behind the scenes. There seems a great feeling amongst all parties not to cancel the Olympics but to work towards a postponement.
Could there be a scaled-down Games?
First, we've still got to answer the question of whether it can take place this year. What is a scaled-down version? Can they deliver it? How does it affect athletes, commercial partners and sponsors? We need to hear from the IOC what the postponement would be. It'll be something that's planned for, but whether it's implemented is completely another matter.
When will there be a decision?
I would be monumentally surprised if it takes four weeks. I'm keen not to put out opinion, but just seeing what has happened in the last two weeks, 10 days, even in the last week, I can't see a decision being strung out for four weeks.
What happens to the athletes?
Athletes want the Games postponed. They're beginning to feel awkward about maybe even having to go to a sporting event, plus you have to factor in that a significant proportion of them cannot train properly. Mentally they need to know they're going for a goal. The sooner the clarity comes for the athletes, the better.