COC's early action helped guide IOC toward decision it ultimately wanted

CBC

The International Olympic Committee may have set into motion a series of events to help convince Japanese organizers it would be best to delay the Tokyo Games by one year.

"Given the subtleties and the coy nature of the IOC, I wouldn't put it past them to have planted some seeds in order to create this wave," Michael Naraine, an assistant professor with Brock University's department of sport management, said Tuesday.

On Sunday morning the IOC said postponing the 2020 Olympics was a realistic possibility due to health concerns due to COVID-19. In a statement, IOC president Thomas Bach said a final decision would come in four weeks but cancellation "is not on our agenda."

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By Sunday evening the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) said say they wouldn't send athletes in Tokyo unless the Games were postponed for a year. On Monday Australia became the second nation to formally announce its athletes would stay home.

WATCH | Canadian IOC member discusses Tokyo 2020 postponement:

Dick Pound, a Canadian member of the IOC, said reading between the lines Bach was sending a message.

"In IOC speak, if you've been around long enough to know what that is," he said. "They leave all options open like most politicians. But basically, you're not going to cancel . . . so the P word is suddenly out there.

"By the time the COC, to take that as an example, made their decision they already knew the IOC had effectively pulled the trigger. So, it was easier for them than it would have been if that hadn't happened."

A Canadian Olympic Committee spokesman said in an email the COC did not know in advance of releasing its statement the IOC was postponing the Games.

WATCH | CBC Sports' Jamie Strashin explains postponement:

Pound said the IOC was concerned over the growing infection rates of the coronavirus. The IOC had been working with the World Health Organization (WHO) to convince Japanese organizers delaying the Games was the right decision.

"What was important was to build a relationship between the WHO and the Japanese," Pound said. "It has not always been an easy relationship to maintain. It (was) important to get the Japanese to understand this was a realistic possibility."

Naraine said having the Tokyo organizing committee on board with the decision was important so the IOC couldn't be accused of breaching its contract.

"At the end of the day, this was a decision about money, about the IOC making sure that they will not be liable for damage to the organizing committee," he said. "And that they were able to maintain the relationship they have with their broadcasters and their top sponsors."

WATCH | Canadian athletes weigh in on postponement:

The decision by the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) to follow Canada's lead was interesting, said Naraine.

John Coates is the AOC president. He is also the head of the IOC's Coordination Commission for the Tokyo Games and a close ally of Bach.

"John Coates would not let the Australian Olympic Committee come out with a statement like that if they didn't already know that this was the directive coming from the IOC," Naraine said.

Not having countries compete at the Games made Japanese organizers realize they would have an inferior product.

"So now the IOC is able to go back and negotiate with the organizing committee and say, 'let's mutually agree to postpone, therefore no one is liable for damages,'" he said.

Pound said it was a difficult decision for the Tokyo organizers.

"I think they had more skin in the game," he said. "They've been preparing for a decade and investing heavily in all this. I think they are more concerned with the matter of face than perhaps other cultures would be.

"That said, they're not stupid and they're not unmindful of what's going on all around."

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