Canada has become the first country to warn that it will not send its athletes to the Tokyo Olympics unless they are postponed for a year as Japan’s Prime Minister Monday admitted a delay may be “inevitable” and the International Olympic Committee said a decision should come within weeks.
The Canadian Olympic Committee said holding the games as planned will threaten the health of its athletes, their families and the broader Canadian community. It said it was dangerous for athletes to continue training for these games”.
“In fact, it runs counter to the public health advice which we urge all Canadians to follow,” it said in a statement.
The committee added: “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.”
Australia also told its athletes to prepare for a Tokyo Olympics in 2021 as expectations grew that the games — scheduled to start on July 24 — would be postponed as the virus crisis convulses the globe.
Japanese and Olympic officials have insisted that the Summer Games will go ahead on time, but criticism from athletes and sports bodies has swelled to a crescendo in recent days.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told parliament that Japan was still committed to a “complete” games, but added: “If that becomes difficult, in light of considering athletes first, it may become inevitable that we make a decision to postpone.”
Opposition to holding the event in July has risen sharply in recent days, with US Track and Field and UK Athletics among those calling for a delay because of the pandemic. Several countries, including Brazil, Norway and Slovenia, have pressed the IOC to consider postponement but have not threatened a boycott.
The IOC said on Sunday that it was drawing up alternative scenarios for the games, but was not considering calling them off. It said it would take up to a month to reach a decision, although that timeline will soon begin to look unrealistic if more national Olympic committees threaten boycotts.