CANADA AND Australia have become the first countries to withdraw their teams from the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympics, even as Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said for the first time on Monday that the Games could be postponed if it could not be held in its "complete form" because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
World Athletics soon followed, declaring: "World Athletics welcomes discussions with the IOC to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and wrote to the IOC earlier today (Monday) to relay this feedback from its Area Presidents, Council and athletes. We stand ready to work with the IOC and all sport on an alternative date."
The statememnt from athletics' global governing body was in response to outcomes from an emergency meeting of the the International Olympic Committee on Sunday, wherein the IOC stated it was stepping up its "scenario planning" for the 2020 Games, due to start on July 24, which would include a possible (inevitable?) postponement.
While announcing their joint decision not to send Canadian teams to Tokyo, the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee urgently called on the IOC, and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to postpone the Games for one year, offering "full support in helping navigate all the complexities that rescheduling the Games will bring".
Echoing their Canadian counterparts, the Australian Olympic Committee said "Australian athletes should prepare for a Tokyo Olympic Games in the northern summer of 2021". The AOC held an executive board meeting via teleconference Monday morning and unanimously agreed that an "Australian team could not be assembled (for the Games) in the changing circumstances at home and abroad".
In a related development, Japan's Prime Minister told the Olympic host country's parliament on Monday, "We may have no option but to consider postponing the Games."
Abe said he had conveyed his views to Tokyo Games chief Yoshiro Mori on Sunday evening, who then discussed the issue with IOC president Thomas Bach.
“Cancellation is not an option,” Abe mentioned, echoing feedback from Bach, who ruled out scrapping the Games, saying it “would not solve any problem and would help nobody”.
The IOC has additionally shifted its place on the Games, issuing an announcement on Sunday saying it was stepping up planning for various situations, together with postponement.
IOC statement in full:
To safeguard the health of all involved and to contribute to the containment of COVID-19, the executive board (eb) of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) today (Sunday) announced that the IOC will step up its scenario-planning for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
These scenarios relate to modifying existing operational plans for the Games to go ahead on 24 July 2020, and also for changes to the start date of the Games. This step will allow better visibility of the rapidly changing development of the health situation around the world and in Japan. It will serve as the basis for the best decision in the interest of the athletes and everyone else involved.
On the one hand, there are significant improvements in Japan where the people are warmly welcoming the Olympic flame. This could strengthen the IOC’s confidence in the Japanese hosts that the IOC could, with certain safety restrictions, organise Olympic Games in the country whilst respecting its principle of safeguarding the health of everyone involved.
On the other hand, there is a dramatic increase in cases and new outbreaks of COVID-19 in different countries on different continents. This led the EB to the conclusion that the IOC needs to take the next step in its scenario-planning.
A number of critical venues needed for the Games could potentially not be available anymore. The situations with millions of nights already booked in hotels is extremely difficult to handle, and the international sports calendar for at least 33 Olympic sports would have to be adapted. These are just a few of many, many more challenges.
Therefore, further to the study of different scenarios, it would need the full commitment and cooperation of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee and the Japanese authorities, and of all the International Federations (IFs) and National Olympic Committees (NOCs). It would also require commitment from, and collaboration with, the Rights-Holding Broadcasters (RHBs) and our TOP Partner sponsors, as part of their continued and valued support to the Olympic Movement, as well as cooperation from all the Games’ partners, suppliers and contractors. It is in this spirit of the Olympic stakeholders’ shared commitment to the Olympic Games, and in light of the worldwide deteriorating situation, that the IOC EB has today initiated the next step in the IOC’s scenario-planning.
The IOC will, in full coordination and partnership with the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, the Japanese authorities and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, start detailed discussions to complete its assessment of the rapid development of the worldwide health situation and its impact on the Olympic Games, including the scenario of postponement. The IOC is confident that it will have finalised these discussions within the next four weeks, and greatly appreciates the solidarity and partnership of the NOCs and IFs in supporting the athletes and adapting Games planning.
The IOC EB emphasised that a cancellation of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 would not solve any of the problems or help anybody. Therefore, cancellation is not on the agenda.