Postponement of Tokyo Olympics 'inevitable'; Canada pulls out over Covid-19

Japan PM Shinzo Abe speaks at a parliamentary session in Tokyo Monday, March 23, 2020. Abe said a postponement of Tokyo Olympics would be unavoidable if the games cannot be held in a complete way because of the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: AP | PTI
The postponement of Tokyo Olympics 2020 over Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic may become “inevitable”, Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe conceded on Monday, after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said a delay was being considered as pressure grows from athletes and sports bodies.

The comments from Japanese PM were his first acknowledgement that the Tokyo Games may not open as scheduled on July 24, as the coronavirus marches across the globe causing unprecedented chaos.

Canada pulls out of 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Meanwhile, Canada's Olympic and Paralympic committees has said they will not send teams to the Games if they are held this summer, citing the health of their athletes and the general public.

"The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC), backed by their Athletes' Commissions, National Sports Organizations and the Government of Canada, have made the difficult decision to not send Canadian teams to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in the summer of 2020," the COC said in a statement on Sunday.

IOC president Thomas Bach said a decision on when the Games would take place would be made "within the next four weeks."

Canadian Olympic and Paralympic authorities, however, said they wouldn't wait that long, urging the IOC to postpone the Games for one year while offering "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 COC and CPC said.

"This is not solely about athlete health -- it is about public health," their statement added. "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.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics chief Yoshiro Mori, center, followed by three-time Olympic gold medalists Tadahiro Nomura and Saori Yoshida, right, carries the Olympic flame during the Flame Arrival Ceremony in Japan. Photo: AP | PTI
Australian Olympic committee asks athletes to prepare for 2021 Summer Games

In other development, Australian Olympic officials on Monday said "it was clear" that the Tokyo Games could not go ahead as scheduled and told its athletes to instead prepare for the event in 2021.

The Australian Olympic Committee convened a board meeting on Monday and unanimously decided a Games starting in July was not possible given the uncertainty around the pandemic.

"It's clear the Games can't be held in July," Australian chef-de-mission Ian Chesterman said.

"Our athletes have been magnificent in their positive attitude to training and preparing, but the stress and uncertainty has been extremely challenging for them."

AOC chief executive Matt Carroll said athletes needed certainty, and they must also prioritise their health and that of their families.

The board meeting decided an Australian team "could not be assembled in the changing circumstances at home and abroad" and they should now plan for an Olympics in the northern hemisphere summer next year.

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