Canada will not send athletes to Tokyo 2020 Olympics

If the Tokyo 2020 Olympics go ahead “as planned” this summer despite the global coronavirus pandemic, at least one country (but likely many, many more to come) will not be attending.

The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) announced via a statement on Sunday night that Team Canada will not send athletes to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics or Paralympics this summer due to COVID-19.

The statement not only firmly presented Canada’s plan to boycott the Games this summer if they’re not pushed to a later date, but urged the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to postpone the event until 2021. It also encouraged Canadians to jump on board to support the move:

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 and CPC urgently call on the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to postpone the Games for one year and 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.

This is not solely about athlete health – it is about public health. 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.

[Related: IOC admits postponing Olympics a realistic scenario, sets deadline after emergency coronavirus meeting]

Australia on board with boycott

As Canada made the bold decision to publicly put pressure on the IOC to postpone the Games, other nations are mulling over their options.

The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) is reportedly telling athletes to prepare for a 12-month postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games as other committees around the world threaten to boycott if the Games were to proceed in July.

If the Olympics do somehow go ahead this summer, Team Canada won't be there. (Michael Janosz/ISI Photos/Getty Images)
If the Olympics do somehow go ahead this summer, Team Canada won't be there. (Michael Janosz/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

In a statement, per the Sydney Morning Herald’s Phil Lutton, the AOC said it was anticipating a postponement from the International Olympic Committee in the face of the global COVID-19 pandemic, despite there being no official action from the IOC after it indicated that postponement of the Summer Games was now an option. The IOC previously resisted the idea.

USA not pressuring IOC to postpone Games

Due to its athletic and economic influence on the Olympics, the United States holds extraordinary power in tough situations like these, but the CEO of the U.S. Olympic team wants the IOC to take time before deciding whether to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Games.

“My role is not to make demands of those making decisions, but to bring forward solutions,” Sarah Hirshland told The Associated Press on Sunday.

Hirshland and the leadership of the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) have taken lots of heat for not calling on the IOC to postpone the Olympics to a later date, something a growing number of athletes and organizations have been expressing with increased urgency over the past few days.

Hirshland told the AP that she can “handle the heat,” but wants people to know that she wants everything — including next steps — to be planned out before the IOC rushes to a decision.

“We’re hearing from the athletes loud and clear, and I can guarantee you, the IOC is going to hear from us, loud and clear,” Hirshland said.

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