Canadian officials will not send athletes to the Tokyo Olympics and have “urgently” called for the event to be postponed until 2021 due to the coronavirus crisis.
The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and the country’s paralympic committee believe the Games should be pushed back on the grounds of public health.
Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe told his country’s parliament on Monday that a postponement would be unavoidable if the event cannot be held in a complete way because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Olympics has never been postponed or cancelled during peacetime.
“The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) have made the difficult decision to not send Canadian teams to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in the summer of 2020,” read a COC 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 recognise 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.”
Almost 13,000 people worldwide have been killed by Covid-19, according to the latest WHO figures, with cases in 187 countries, areas or territories.
The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) has told its athletes to prepare for the Games being held “in the northern summer of 2021”.
Australian Team Chef de Mission for Tokyo Ian Chesterman said in a statement: “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.
“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.”
In response to growing calls for a delay over the Covid-19 pandemic, the IOC’s now accepts the Games could be moved to a new date.
The IOC’s executive board said it would now step up its “scenario-planning” to look at the different possibilities in what is an ever-changing situation in Japan and globally.
“The IOC EB emphasised that a cancellation of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 would not solve any of the problems or help anybody. Therefore, cancellation is not on the agenda,” read an IOC statement.
Meanwhile, Australia’s rugby league competition, the NRL, has suspended its season.
Matches, played behind closed doors, had continued to take place until Sunday.
NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg told a media conference: “The advice has changed and as it does, so do we.
“We have made the unprecedented decision to suspend the 2020 season. We would not have reached this point had the situation not changed so dramatically.
“Our priority is to give our game the best chance of a long and sustainable future.”
Australian Rugby League chairman Peter V’landys said the decision would have “catastrophic” consequences for the sport.
Greenberg added he was confident the season would resume, but noted a “much broader issue facing our country”.