Postponing Olympics a possibility, says Japan PM; Canada not sending athletes to Games
The International Olympic Committee has said a final decision on postponement will be made within four weeks. Canada, meanwhile, has decided not to send its athletes to the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has for the first time acknowledged that the Tokyo Olympic games may have to be postponed. Speaking in the Japanese Parliament on Monday, Abe said a postponement might have to be considered if the games cannot be held safely because of the coronavirus pandemic. The games are currently due to open on July 24.
Abe said the country might have "no option but to consider postponing the games", but added that cancellation was not an option. Last week, the Japanese leader had confidently announced that his country would "overcome the spread of the infection and host the Olympics without problem".
In recent days, a growing number of countries and athletes have called for the games to be postponed, while Canada said on Monday it will not send any teams.
On Sunday, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said a final decision on postponement will be made within four weeks, due to the vast complexities of rescheduling a massive global sporting event like the Olympics.
“The IOC’s decision is along the lines of what I said before, of holding the event in its complete form. If that becomes difficult -- and thinking first about the health of the athletes -- we may have no option but to consider postponing the Games," Abe said, speaking at the budget committee in Japan’s Upper House of Parliament.
Canada won’t send its athletes to Tokyo Olympics
Canada has become the first country to back out of the Olympic games as it announced that it won't be sending athletes to the Tokyo Olympics. In a statement, the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) said they had made the difficult decision not to send Canadian teams to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in the summer of 2020.
"This is not solely about athlete health – it is about public health," Team Canada said in a statement. "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."
RELEASE: The Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee have made the difficult decision to not send Canadian teams to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in the summer of 2020: https://t.co/HyOBA5wwp4 pic.twitter.com/x9OWABVxMA— Team Canada PR (@TeamCanadaPR) March 23, 2020
The COC and CPC are also calling on the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to postpone the Games for one year.
"We offer them our full support in helping navigate all the complexities that rescheduling the Games will bring. 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," the committees said.
More than 13,000 people have died globally since the coronavirus outbreak began in China late last year, with the epicentre now in Europe.
As of Sunday morning, Japan had 37 deaths and 1,055 coronavirus cases, excluding those from a cruise ship that was quarantined near Tokyo last month and returnees on chartered flights from China, a tally by public broadcaster NHK showed.
Australia, meanwhile, is planning for the possibility that Olympic Games could be postponed until 2021.
Australia's Olympic Committee (AOC) is telling its athletes to prepare for the possibility that the Games could be postponed until 2021. “The AOC believes our athletes now need to prioritise their own health and of those around them, and to be able to return to the families, in discussion with their National Federations.
The AOC held an Executive Board meeting via teleconference this morning and unanimously agreed that an Australian Team could not be assembled in the changing circumstances at home and abroad,” said a statement from AOC.
Australian Team Chef de Mission for Tokyo Ian Chesterman said it's clear the Games can't be held in July.
"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.
“We are aware that for many such a postponement will present a range of new issues. But when the world does come together at the Tokyo Olympic Games they can be a true celebration of sport and humanity.”