The Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Committees have become the first national organizations to publicly commit to not competing in the Games this summer. Canada will not send its athletes on the currently scheduled dates, due to the coronavirus pandemic and they are proposing the Games be held in 2021 instead.
The committees said: "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."
We reached out to some of Canada's Olympic hopefuls to find out how they reacted to the decision and how it affects their season:
Australia also announced it would not be sending athletes to Tokyo in 2020. A statement read: "The AOC Executive Board unanimously agreed that an Australian team could not be assembled in the changing circumstances at home and abroad. The AOC believes our athletes now need to prioritize their own health and of those around them, and to be able to return to the families, in discussion with their national federations. 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."
The announcements were the first concrete sign we've had that the Olympics may not be going ahead as scheduled this summer. They were followed shortly by New Zealand and Great Britain also saying theycould consider a boycott if the Games went ahead as scheduled.
Neither Japan nor the IOC have said they are considering cancelling the event however Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that postponing them could be a possibility for the first time earlier today. He said: "If it is difficult to hold the games in such a way, we have to decide to postpone them, giving top priority to the well-being of the athletes. Although the IOC will make a final decision, we are of the same view that cancellation is not an option.” An official decision will reportedly be taken in 4 weeks.
Press Release: The Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Committees (joint statement)
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), 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.