TORONTO, Canada – The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) says it won’t send its team to the Tokyo Olympics unless they’re postponed until next year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The 2020 Games were set to start on July 24 and run through August 9, but the ongoing spread of the COVID-19 has many calling for them to be rescheduled.
That includes the COC, which is asking the International Olympic Committee, the International Paralympic Committee and the World Health Organization to postpone the Games for one year.
COC said it would offer its full support in helping navigate all the complexities that rescheduling the Games would 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,” wrote COC in a statement on Sunday. “This is not solely about athlete health – it is about public health.”
COC says it’s worried about the risks COVID-19 poses to its athletes, their families and the broader Canadian community for athletes to continue training towards the Games. In fact, it runs counter to the public health advice which we urge all Canadians to follow.
Canada’s announcement comes as Japanese officials weigh the possibility of postponing the Olympics. The IOC says it will take four weeks to weigh options for the Games amid mounting calls from athletes and Olympic officials for a postponement.
The time will be used to plan different scenarios for the July 24-Aug. 9 games, the International Olympic Committee said 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.
The change in strategy followed IOC president Thomas Bach leading a telephone conference call with executive board members.
Bach has consistently said organizers are 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.
“Of course we are considering different scenarios,” Bach told the New York Times in an interview late Thursday.