The future of the 2020 Olympics Games in Tokyo was plunged into major doubt today as both Australia and Canada announced that they would not be sending their teams to Japan, owing to the current world health crisis.
Per The Sun, Canada officially confirmed their withdrawal on Sunday evening - and were swiftly joined by Australia a few hours later.
Both countries want a postponement of the games until 2021 - similar to the course of action adopted by UEFA in respect of football's European Championships which had been scheduled for this summer.
In making their announcement, the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) accepted that rearranging the games would be no easy task, but called upon organisers to consider the health and safety of all involved - including the wider public.
"While we recognise 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."
Their Australian counterparts, the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC), echoed many of the same sentiments when formally revealing their own decision to boycott the games.
"The AOC believes our athletes now need to prioritise their own health and of those around them, and to be able to return to the families, in discussion with their National Federations.
"The AOC held an Executive Board meeting via teleconference this morning and unanimously agreed that an Australian Team could not be assembled in the changing circumstances at home and abroad."
With the games due to get underway in a little over four months time, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe recently admitted that the coronavirus outbreak had led to conditions that were currently 'not adequate' for the Olympics to proceed as planned on July 24.
Despite this, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have stated that they intend to allow themselves up to four weeks before formally making a decision on the future of the games.
Given the levels of uncertainty created by the coronavirus outbreak around the world at present, it is perhaps unsurprising that two major nations such as Canada and Australia have chosen to rule themselves out of an Olympic Games due to start in just a few short months.
Rather than preparing for a games that seem increasingly unlikely to take place, athletes would surely be better served to focus upon the health and safety of themselves and their families at this time.
Canada and Australia may be the first major nations to declare themselves out of a 2020 games, but one would think they are unlikely to be the last. A 2021 Olympics staged once the coronavirus has subsided seems in the best interests of all involved.
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