The Canadian Olympic Committee says it won’t send athletes to the Tokyo Games unless they’re postponed for a year, becoming the first country to threaten such a move in the face of the coronavirus outbreak.
The committee sent out a statement Sunday evening saying it was willing to help the International Olympic Committee 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.”
“In fact, it runs counter to the public health advice which we urge all Canadians to follow.”
Canada brought 314 athletes who combined to win 22 medals at the Rio Games in 2016.
Some of its most notable performers included swimmer Penny Oleksiak and sprinter Andre De Grasse.
Canada joins a number of countries — including Norway, Brazil and Slovenia — that have pressed the IOC on a possible postponement. But none had flat-out said they wouldn’t go if the games start when they’re scheduled on July 24.
The IOC on Sunday said it would take up to four weeks to consider alternatives, which include postponement. It has taken the possibility of canceling the games off the table.
In addition, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said a postponement of Tokyo Olympics would be unavoidable if the games cannot be held in a complete way because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Abe, speaking at a parliamentary session, ruled out the possibility of a cancellation.
Whether Japan can hold the Tokyo Games as planned from July 24 has been a major international concern as the coronavirus has spread globally.