The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and the Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) said that they won’t send athletes to the Olympics in Tokyo unless the Games are postponed by one year. 

The 2020 Games are set to begin from July 24 and still, discussions about the postponement of the event are on amid concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

The move comes hours after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said it would take a month to consider postponing the 2020 Olympics following an emergency meeting earlier on Sunday.

Backed by the Athletes’ Commissions, National Sport Organizations and the Government of Canada, the COC and CPC say they “made the difficult decision to not send Canadian teams to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in the summer of 2020.”

“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,” the COC said in a statement. 

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

The committee has said it was willing to help IOC search for alternatives, but that it was not safe for athletes, “their families and the broader Canadian community for athletes to continue training for these Games.”

The statement also cited the scope of the public health threat. “Containing the virus must be our paramount concern. We are in the midst of a global health crisis that is far more significant than sport.”

Seyi Smith, chair of the Canadian Olympic Committee Athletes’ Commission, said the decision will ensure people are safe. “It’s been a collective process to get here,”  Smith said.

He added how officials from the COC called the 14 members of the athletes’ commission to get their insights. “It’s the uncertainty that is the worst thing. In sport and in life. People are sick, people are dying.”

As for the IOC, it stated in a press release that “cancellation is not on the agenda” with respect to the upcoming Games.

Canada is the first country to threaten such a move. It joins a number of countries – including Norway, Brazil, and Slovenia – that have pressed the IOC on a possible postponement.

After Canada’s announcement, the Australian Olympic Committee has also said a delegation “could not be assembled in the changing circumstances at home and abroad”. It has told its athletes to prepare for the Olympics to be held in 2021.

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