Olympics Thrown Into Question as Canada And Australia Pull Out
Canada and Australia have announced that they will not send athletes to the Tokyo Olympics because of the coronavirus pandemic, making the likelihood that the 2020 Games will go ahead in July even more remote. The Olympic committees from both countries also called for the Games to be postponed until 2021.
The withdrawals came hours after the International Olympic Committee on Sunday gave its clearest indication yet that the games could be postponed. Over the course of the next month, the IOC said it would continue to monitor the “rapidly changing development of the health situation around the world and in Japan. But, it "made it plain that an outright cancellation of the 17-day sporting event is simply not an option.
Both countries' Olympic committees also are calling for the Games to be postponed until 2021.
"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," the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee said in a joint statement Sunday. "This is not solely about athlete health -- it is about public health."
The Australian Olympic Committee's executive board met by teleconference Monday and unanimously agreed that an Australian Olympic team could not be assembled given the changing circumstances across the world, the committee said in a statement.
The committee also said "our athletes now need to prioritise their own health and of those around them, and to be able to return to the families."
"It's clear the Games can't be held in July," said Ian Chesterman, Australian Team Chef de Mission for Tokyo. "Our athletes have been magnificent in their positive attitude to training and preparing, but the stress and uncertainty has been extremely challenging for them."
Australian Olympic Committee CEO Matt Carroll said athletes should prepare for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.
"The athletes desperately want to go to the games...but they also take onboard their own personal health," Carroll told reporters in Sydney on Monday. "We need to give our athletes that certainty and that's what we've done."
The IOC executive board ruled out canceling the Games, saying it would "destroy the Olympic dream of 11,000 athletes" and all those who support them, according to a letter to athletes from IOC President Thomas Bach.
The Canadian statement thanked the IOC for saying it would not cancel the games, saying the IOC appreciates the "the importance of accelerating its decision-making regarding a possible postponement."
The IOC has faced increasing pressure to postpone the Games as people across the world have gotten sick and died from Covid-19. Tracks, gyms and public spaces are closed in much of the world and major qualifying events have been canceled.
Canadian Olympic Team Official Press Release (Photo by COC)
TORONTO (March 22, 2020) – 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.
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.