Canada is pulling its athletes out of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
On Sunday, the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Committees said they would not send their athletes to Japan this summer and urged the International Olympic and Paralympic Committees to postpone the Games for a year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“This is not solely about athlete health-it is about public health,” the COC and CPC said in their statement. “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 for these Games. In fact, it runs counter to the public health advice which we urge all Canadians to follow.”
Australia is following suit and preparing its athletes instead for the possibility of a 2021 Summer Olympics:
On Sunday, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said for the first time that postponing the Games is a possibility if there isn’t a way to hold the event in its “complete form,” per Reuters (h/t New York Times).
Abe said that canceling the Games altogether is not an option, however.
Additionally, Reuters reported that the International Olympic Committee held an emergency meeting and is “stepping up its ‘scenario planning’ for the 2020 Games due to start on July 24, including a possible postponement.”
IOC President Thomas Bach also indicated that the committee will come to a decision in the next month in a letter addressed to Olympic athletes:
“Together with all the stakeholders, we have started detailed discussions today to complete our assessment of the rapid development of the worldwide health situation and its impact on the Olympic Games, including a scenario of postponement. We are working very hard, and we are confident that we will have finalized these discussions within the next four weeks.”
As for Canada’s decision to pull out of this summer’s Olympics barring a postponement, it could prompt other countries to take similar actions. ESPN’s Michele Steele tweeted that such a measure “is not off the table for U.S. athletes, either.”
And there is mounting pressure for the IOC and Japan to delay the Games:
Given the uncertain timeline of the coronavirus pandemic and the limitations measures like social distancing place on athletes and their training, postponement appears to be gaining steam as a viable option. There have been over 244,000 reported cases of the coronavirus and 12,944 deaths, according to CNN.com.