Women's Sport: Canada withdraws from Olympics and Paralympics throwing the games into further doubt

Canada has become the first country to say they will not send athletes to the Olympics and Paralympic Games should they take place in Tokyo this summer as scheduled.

In a statement, they called on the IOC to postpone the games for one year while the world fights the coronavirus pandemic.

They are not alone in calling for a delay to the games which are due to start on 24 July. USA Track and Field have called for a delay, and Lord Coe, the president of World Athletics wrote to the IOC over the weekend also calling for the event to be postponed.

In their statement, Team Canada wrote: “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.

“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. In fact, it runs counter to the public health advice which we urge all Canadians to follow.”

The IOC has said they will take the next four weeks to consider their options regarding postponing or scaling down the Olympics. 

Dina Asher-Smith reacted to the IOC’s announcement on Twitter, writing: “So wait… does this mean that athletes face up to another FOUR weeks of finding ways to fit in training – whilst potentially putting ourselves, coaches, support staff and loved ones at risk just to find out they were going to be postponed anyway!!!”

BBC Sport also reports that the Japanese Prime Minister has for the first time said the games may be postponed. Speaking to parliament he said: “If it is difficult to hold [the games] in a complete way, a decision of postponement would be unavoidable as we think the athletes’ safety is paramount.”

Should the games be postponed it will be the first time in the history of the Olympics and Paralympics that such a decision has been taken.

UK Sport, the British Olympic Association and the British Paralympic Association have announced that they are having a call with the heads and performance directors for the different sports on Tuesday 24 March which will inform their position moving forwards.

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