Canada and Australia will not send athletes to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games due to COVID-19 risks and are calling for the Games to be postponed until 2021.
The Olympic committees for both countries issued statements after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said on Sunday that it will come to a decision about the timing of the 2020 Tokyo Games within four weeks. The IOC has said that while cancellation is not on the table, some alternatives, including postponement or a scaled-back Games, were being considered.
Canada’s Olympic and Paralympic Committees said on Sunday night that they will not participate in the Tokyo Olympics unless they are postponed until next year.
“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 committees said in a joint statement. “This is not solely about athlete health — it is about public health.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.”
The Games are scheduled to start July 24. Going ahead with that timeline, the Canadian committees argued, “runs counter to the public health advice which we urge all Canadians to follow … We are in the midst of a global health crisis that is far more significant than sport.”
Canada will take two individual spots in eventing for the Games.
Last week Equestrian Canada suspended all EC-run events, clinics and activities and all EC-sanctioned competitions for four weeks, until April 12, 2020.
Today the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) told its athletes that they should prepare for a Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021. The AOC Executive Board unanimously agreed this morning that “an Australian Team could not be assembled in the changing circumstances at home and abroad.”
Withdrawing from the 2020 Games puts an end to the uncertainty that athletes have experienced. “We are now in a position where we can plan with greater certainty,” the AOC said in a statement. “It’s clear the Games can’t be held in July. Our athletes have been magnificent in their positive attitude to training and preparing, but the stress and uncertainty has been extremely challenging for them.”
The AOC acknowledged that a postponement would be challenging but maintained that it was in the best interest of global public health and the well-being of athletes: “We are aware that for many such a postponement will present a range of new issues. But when the world does come together at the Tokyo Olympic Games they can be a true celebration of sport and humanity.”
Australian eventing punched its ticket to the Games at the 2018 World Equestrian Games in Tryon. Equestrian Australia issued a statement today in response to the AOC’s decision, noting that the selection process for a 2021 Games will be revisited on March 31, 2020.