The Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee say they will not send athletes to compete in Tokyo if the Games — set to begin July 24 — go ahead as scheduled.
Backed by the Athletes’ Commissions, National Sports Organizations and the Government of Canada, the COC and CPC say they have “made the difficult decision to not send Canadian teams to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in the summer of 2020.”
The two committees are calling on the International Olympic Committee to postpone the Games for a year, citing the safety of athletes and the general public amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is not solely about athlete health — it is about public health,” the committees said in a statement Sunday night.
“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 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 everyone is safe now, and in the future, and will ensure Canada has the best competitive team.
“It’s been a collective process to get here,” Smith said.
He said officials from the COC spent all of Sunday calling the 14 members of the athletes’ commission to get their insights on how to proceed.
“It’s the uncertainty that is the worst thing. In sport and in life. People are sick, people are dying.”
The move comes hours after the IOC said it was taking a month to consider postponing the 2020 Olympics after an emergency meeting earlier on Sunday.
However, the IOC stated in a press release that “cancellation is not on the agenda” with respect to the upcoming Games.
In a separate letter sent to Olympic athletes, IOC president Thomas Bach offered assurances that “we are working very hard, and we are confident that we will have finalized these discussions within the next four weeks.”
The COC and CPC say they are thankful for the IOC’s assurance that it will not cancel the Tokyo 2020 Games and that they understand the importance of accelerating its decision-making regarding a possible postponement.
“We also applaud the IOC for acknowledging that safeguarding the health and wellness of nations and 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,” the statement said.
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