Canada, Australia Will Not Send Athletes to Tokyo Olympics Until Coronavirus Under Control

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Mar. 23, 2020

Canada and Australia both declared Sunday their nations’ athletes will not go to the Olympics in Tokyo in July because of the coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic and appealed to the International Olympic Committee to postpone the Games. Norway earlier called for the Games to be postponed as did U.S. Swimming and U.S. Track and Field.

Developments were fast-paced and overwhelmed the IOC’s decision on Sunday backing off its long-held stance that athletes should prepare for Games going ahead as planned beginning July 24 and said it will make a decision in four weeks on whether to postpone.

The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, a powerful body as it represents the nation that typically has the largest team, tops the medal standings and is home to the television, network, NBC, that is paying the IOC US$1.45/€1.36 billion for broadcast rights for Tokyo, described the change of heart by the IOC as “an important step.”

Canada and Australia took it further.

The Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee with backing of athletes’ commissions, national sports organizations and the Canadian government announced it will not send athletes to compete in Tokyo if the Games go ahead as scheduled and suggested staging the world’s major sporting event in 2021.

“The COC and CPC urgently call on the International Olympic Committee, the International Paralympic Committee and the World Health Organization 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,” the organizations 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.

“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.”

Australia also took a strong approach, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying the country’s indefinite worldwide travel ban would apply to Olympic athletes if it remained in effect at the time of the Games.

Norway’s Olympic committee sent a letter to the IOC asking that the Olympics not go on until the pandemic is under control.

While saying after an executive board meeting the status of the Olympics will be reviewed, including possible postponement, the IOC declared that “cancellation is not on the agenda.”