Canadian Olympic and Paralympic teams won’t be heading to Japan this summer, and one other nation is already following suit.

The Tokyo Organizing Committee is yet to back away from the scheduled July 24 date for the Olympics opening ceremony, and the IOC has likewise yet to publicly voice a desire to reschedule or cancel the Games. Whether the Tokyo Olympics go off as planned or not, however, one things is for sure: Canadian athletes won’t be competing in Tokyo this summer.

On Sunday, the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic teams posted a statement on their official website explaining that the Canadian Olympic Committee has decided not to send any of its athletes to the Tokyo Olympics or Paralympics (the latter of which are supposed to begin on August 25) due to the effects and risks of the ongoing coronavirus epidemic. The decisions come with the support of Canada’s athletes’ commissions, national sports organizations and government, making Canada the first country is the first to withdraw from the 2020 Games.

The resolution isn’t based only on Japan being a country with confirmed cases of coronavirus infection, as that label also applies to Canada, and really just about every developed nation on the planet now. Instead, the Canadian Olympic/Paralympic teams’ logic is that the travel, logistics, and interpersonal coordination required not only to participate in, but also to prepare domestically for, the Olympics present a danger to all involved in the current health climate. “This is not solely about athlete health – it is about public health,” the statement says. “With COVID-19 and the associated risks, it is not safe for our athletes, and the health and safety of their families and the broader Canadian community for athletes to continue training towards these Games. In fact, it runs counter to the public health advice which we urge all Canadians to follow.”

Since the Canadian teams’ announcement, the move has been mirrored by Australia, which has said that it will not compete in Tokyo if the Games take place in 2020. Australia is one of only five countries with a perfect modern Olympics attendance record, having been present at every competition since Athens 1896.

Back in February, as soon as events started getting cancelled in Japan due to coronavirus concerns, the question on everybody’s mind was “Will the Tokyo Olympics be OK?” At the time, it wasn’t too hard to keep an optimistic attitude, since there was still almost half a year in which to get the coronavirus outbreak under control. That window is growing narrower by the day, though, and it’s increasingly looking like regardless of what the conditions in Japan are by midsummer, the crisis is now global enough that it’s likely that some, if not many, participating nations will decide that participating, and even prior practice and training, are unsafe.

The Canadian teams’ statement stresses that they are willing to offer their “full support in helping navigate all the complexities that rescheduling the Games will bring,” and that “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.“ If other nations join Canada and Australia in announcing that their athletes are staying home as well, it could finally convince he Tokyo Organizing Committee to reschedule the event, since you can’t have an Olympic Games without any Olympic athletes.

Source: Team Canada via The Answer via Hachima Kiko, News.com.au
Featured image: Twitter/@TeamCanada

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