In Brief

IOC urged to make decision as Team Canada withdraws from Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hints that the games could be postponed - but cancelling is not an option

Canada has become the first major nation to withdraw from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. 

In a statement issued overnight the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee said it had been a “difficult decision” to make, but after consulting athletes, sports groups, and the government the county said it would not be sending a team to Japan this summer. 

“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,” said the statement.

“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.”

Team Canada later posted a message on Twitter, confirming the decision and declaring: “Postpone today. Conquer tomorrow.”

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Japan’s dream in jeopardy

Canada’s announcement was made shortly after Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe admitted publicly for the first time that the games were in jeopardy.

Abe said cancelling the event is “not an option” but in Japan’s parliament today he added: “If the IOC’s decision means it becomes impossible to hold [the Olympics] in a ‘complete form,’ as I have previously said, then a decision may have to be made to postpone them.”

Australia has said it is “clear” that the Olympics cannot begin on 24 July and according to BBC Sport the Australian Olympic Committee has “told its athletes to prepare for a 2021 games”.

Unlike other sports and events, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has dragged its feet in making a decision on the summer games, creating frustration among many nations and athletes. 

In announcing their withdrawal, Canada “urgently called” on the IOC to show more decisive leadership and end the uncertainty.

Indecisive IOC

Canada’s decision may have been prompted by the vague statement released by the IOC after the executive board met on Sunday to discuss the crisis. 

Despite growing calls last week to postpone the Tokyo mega-event, the IOC declared: “In light of the worldwide deteriorating situation... the executive board has initiated the next step in the IOC’s scenario-planning. 

“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.” 

Tokyo 2021?

BBC Sport says that the games will definitely not be cancelled and the most likely “scenarios” will be either a “scaled-down” Olympics, or a postponement. 

Some of today’s newspapers claim that the games will be pushed back from a start date of 24 July to 24 October, but the BBC claims that the games could be rescheduled for 2021.

Either way, the world is looking to the IOC for strong and bold leadership, but the announcement that it could be four weeks before a decision is taken will only add to the frustration of many. 

“We welcome the IOC executive board decision to review the options in respect of a postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games,” said British Olympic Association (BOA) chairman Sir Hugh Robertson. 

“However, we urge rapid decision-making for the sake of athletes who still face significant uncertainty.”

Today’s back pages

Flame flickers on Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Joe Cole says the Premier League should start from scratch

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––For analysis of the biggest sport stories - and a concise, balanced take on the week’s news - try The Week magazine. Start your trial today –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

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