Canada, Australia will not send athletes to Olympics; Games may be put on hold

Published 9:42 am Monday, March 23, 2020

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Canada and Australia will not send athletes to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo because of the risks associated with the coronavirus outbreak, the Olympic committees for both countries said in separate statements.

Both countries’ Olympic committees also are calling for the Games to be postponed until 2021.

Amid mounting calls from athletes and officials for a postponement, the Olympic Games may be put on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Four weeks will be taken to weigh options and to plan different scenarios for the July 24-Aug. 9 games in Tokyo, the International Olympic Committee announced Sunday.

“These scenarios relate to modifying existing operational plans for the Games to go ahead on 24 July 2020, and also for changes to the start date of the Games,” the IOC said.

Though canceling the Tokyo Olympics is not an option, a delay until later this year or in 2021 is possible, according to officials.

IOC President Thomas Bach led a telephone conference call with executive board members. Bach regularly has said organizers were fully committed to holding the games from July 24-Aug. 9 — despite athlete training, qualifying events and games preparations being disrupted more and more by the virus outbreak spreading globally.

Criticism of the stance grew in recent days — from athletes and by a first IOC member last Tuesday — and Bach finally acknowledged an alternative plan was possible.

A worldwide group representing Olympic hopefuls called on the postponement until the pandemic is under control.

“As the world unites to limit the spread of Covid-19 virus, the IOC… must do the same,” Global Athlete stressed in a news release Sunday.

“Athletes want to be part of a solution to ensure the Games are a success,” the Global Athlete statement added. “But under the current global restrictions that are limiting public gatherings as well as closing training facilities and borders, athletes do not have the ability to appropriately prepare for these Games, and their health and safety must come first.”