The 2020 Tokyo Olympics has been thrown into major doubt after Canada became the first major country to withdraw from the Games.
Canadian officials have ‘urgently’ called for the event to be postponed until 2021 because of the global coronavirus crisis.
The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and the country’s Paralympic committee believe the Games should be pushed back a year on the grounds of public health.
Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe has also conceded 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.
Australia’s team has also said it is ‘clear’ the games cannot go ahead, and has told its athletes to prepare for a 2021 games.
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.”
Giving COVID-19 the red card
The quicker we work together to stop coronavirus spreading, the sooner we can get back into the pub, the gyms and stadiums and arenas to see live sport again…
1. Practice social distancing by remaining two metres apart from others.
2. Wash your hands regularly
3. Self isolate if you have a fever or cough
Stay at home if you have either:
- a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
- a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
For more info and tips, visit the NHS website.
The government has also issued its guidance on social distancing.
Everyone should do what they can to stop coronavirus spreading.
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.
Great Britain are also unlikely to be able to send a team to Tokyo should the Olympic Games go ahead as scheduled.
Hugh Robertson, chair of the British Olympic Association, has said it almost certain that Team GB will not compete if the Games were given the green light for this summer.
“I think it is very simple. If the virus continues as predicted by the Government, I don’t think there is any way we can send a team,” he told Sky Sports News.
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“And I base that on two things. Firstly, I don’t see any way that the athletes and Team GB could be ready by then.
“Elite training facilities are perfectly understandably and quite correctly closed around the country, so there is no way they could undertake the preparation they need to get ready for a Games.
“Second, there is the appropriateness of holding an Olympic Games at a time like this.
“We are actually in a process where we are talking to all our sports. We will complete that over the next couple of days.
“At the end of that we have already said to the IOC that we think their four-week pause is absolutely the right thing to do.
“We can’t see any way that this can go ahead as things are constituted at the moment and I expect we will be joining Canada and Australia shortly.”