The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and Paralympic Committee (CPC) said on Sunday that Team Canada will not participate in the Olympic and Paralympic Games in the summer of 2020 due to concerns about the outbreak of the coronavirus.
Opposition to holding the Games in July has risen sharply in the past 48 hours, with several major stakeholders such as U.S. Track and Field and UK Athletics, along with several national Olympic committees, calling for a delay because of the pandemic.
More than 13,000 people have died globally since the coronavirus outbreak began.
“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,” the committees said in a statement.
“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,” it added.
The IOC said on Sunday it would hold discussions that would include an option of putting back the July 24 start date or even moving the Games by a year or more due to the global coronavirus outbreak, but said cancelling the Games would not solve problems or help anybody.
Canada’s withdrawal will add to growing pressure on the IOC to alter the schedule after criticism from a slew of current and former athletes with health concerns.
The Olympics have never been postponed or cancelled during peacetime but the IOC’s decision to even consider postponement was met with relief from several major stakeholders, including World Athletics, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and major national Olympic committees.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also urged the IOC to make a quick decision, adding that a postponement would be unavoidable if the games cannot be held in a complete way.
But a decision probably won’t come sooner than next month. The IOC said last week that roughly 4,700 of 11,000 spots in the Olympics have yet to be allocated.
Meanwhile, the Australian Olympic Committee is advising its athletes to prepare for an Olympics in 2021.
Ian Chesterman, Australia’s team leader for Tokyo, says It’s clear the games can’t be held in July.”
“Our athletes have been magnificent in their positive attitude to training and preparing, but the stress and uncertainty has been extremely challenging for them,” Chesterman said in a statement released Monday by the Australian Olympic Committee.
They have also shouldered the burden of concern for their peers around the world. That has been a consistent message to me.”
AOC chief executive Matt Carroll said Australia had athletes based overseas and training in central locations around the country.