There’s been a lot of discussion of the possibility of postponing the 2020 Tokyo Olympics over concerns about the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, with USA Swimming and USA Track and Field calling for a postponement, the national Olympic committees of Norway and Brazil adding to that chorus, and both the International Olympic Committee and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe indicating that a postponement is now under consideration. And one of the strongest statements yet in favor of a postponement came from the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee Sunday night, with those organizations saying they won’t send athletes to the Tokyo Games if the Games are not postponed:
BREAKING: The Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee will refuse to send athletes to the Tokyo Olympics if the event is not postponed.The 2020 Games are currently set to begin on July 24. News release: pic.twitter.com/NT8twsqAXI
— CBC News Alerts (@CBCAlerts) March 23, 2020
Of course, there have been numerous Olympics held with certain countries declining to participate (including the U.S. and 64 other countries at the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow and the USSR and 13 other countries at the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles). And the Olympics could certainly still go on without Canadian participation; Canada won 22 total medals (10th in the world) at the 2016 Rio Olympics (the Canadian team is pictured above at those closing ceremonies), which is significant, but not near the top (the U.S., China, and Britain won 121, 70 and 67 total medals respectively at those Games). But it’s definitely notable to see a national Olympic committee not only calling for a postponement, but also saying they won’t send athletes if the Games are not postponed.
And that puts some more pressure on the IOC to make a decision on postponement, and to do so quickly. The IOC had previously indicated their postponement decision timetable is just “within the next four weeks,” but this move by Canada adds to the pressure on the central body from other national sports federations. And if other federations start saying they won’t send athletes if the Games proceed as planned, that will really boost the case for postponement. We’ll see where this goes from here.