After weeks of insisting the Tokyo Games would take place on schedule this summer, Olympic officials revealed Sunday they are considering a postponement, which could mark the first step in ultimately delaying the world’s largest sporting event because of the novel coronavirus.
Facing mounting pressure and growing criticism, Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, wrote a letter to Olympic athletes Sunday in which he said canceling the Summer Games altogether is not an option and vowed that a final decision on postponement would be made within the next four weeks.
The message prompted a strong backlash Sunday night when the Canadian Olympic Committee said it would not send its athletes to compete in Tokyo this summer, the strongest statement to date against the IOC’s preference to stick to its schedule.
“This is not solely about athlete health — it is about public health,” the committee said in a statement, in which it called for a postponement. “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.”
Canada is the first country to refuse participation in these Summer Olympics, dealing the IOC a devastating blow hours after the international governing body sought to assuage its growing detractors and critics with its message to athletes.
“Together with all the stakeholders, we have started detailed discussions today to complete our assessment of the rapid development of the worldwide health situation and its impact on the Olympic Games, including a scenario of postponement,” Bach wrote.