Canadian athletes will not compete at Tokyo 2020 Games due to COVID-19 risks
Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Committees call for 1-year postponement
The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) say they won't send athletes to compete at the Tokyo Games — set to begin July 24 — if they proceed as scheduled.
Backed by the Athletes' Commissions, National Sport Organizations and the Government of Canada, the COC and CPC say they "made the difficult decision to not send Canadian teams to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in the summer of 2020."
The two committees are calling on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to postpone the Games for a year, citing the safety of athletes and the general public amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"This is not solely about athlete health — it is about public health," the committees said in a statement Sunday night.
"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".
Following the announcement by the Canadian committees, Australia's chef de mission, Ian Chesterman, said it's clear the Games can't be held in July and urged they be postponed to 2021.
On Monday, the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) backed the IOC's approach of taking time to consider postponing the Tokyo Games and condemned the body's critics.
"We view as unacceptable any attempts to bring pressure on the organizations in charge responsible of staging the Games and to force them to take rash decisions," the ROC said.
On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau praised the COC's decision as an example of the social distancing required to prevent the spread of the disease.
"Team Canada and the Canadian Paralympic Team made the tough decision not to send athletes to the Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer," Trudeau said in his daily briefing in Ottawa. "I know this is heartbreaking for so many people — athletes, coaches, staff and fans.
"But this was absolutely the right call and everyone should follow their lead."
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, speaking at a parliamentary session, said a postponement of the Tokyo Olympics would be unavoidable if the Games cannot be held in a complete way because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"If it is difficult to hold [the Games] in a complete way, a decision of postponement would be unavoidable," he said.
Abe said he hoped the IOC would make a decision early if it is postponed, because the process would involve a lot of work and should start as soon as possible.
The COC's Sunday statement also cited the scope of the public health threat.
"Containing the virus must be our paramount concern. We are in the midst of a global health crisis that is far more significant than sport," it said.
Seyi Smith, chair of the COC Athletes' Commission, said the decision will ensure people are safe — and will also ensure Canada has the best competitive team.
"It's been a collective process to get here,"