Canada Will Not Send Athletes to Summer 2020 Olympics, Steps up Postponement Pressure

tess-routliffe-canada-swimming-trials
Tess Routliffe Photo Courtesy: Scott Grant

The Canadian Olympic Committee Sunday night escalated the pressure on the International Olympic Committee to postpone the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, releasing a statement that it has “made the difficult decision to not send Canadian teams to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in the summer of 2020.”

That statement by the COC and Canadian Paralympic Committee was backed by the nation’s Athlete’s Commission and national sport organizations as well as the government in light of the coronavirus global pandemic.

From the statement:

“The COC and CPC urgently call on the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to postpone the Games for one year and we offer them our full support in helping navigate all the complexities that rescheduling the Games will bring. 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.”

Swimming Canada was quick to support USA Swimming’s push for a postponement of the Games last week, but this represents a broader and more comprehensive push from a nation that sent the ninth-largest delegation to the 2016 Rio Olympics. It piles on wide support from athletes in favor of postponement and is a step further than the French foreign minister’s casting of doubt on French participation in the Games. Australia also has stated that it would not except Olympic athletes from its travel bans aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19.

The release cites the decision as rooted in both athlete and the greater 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 Sunday said that it will discuss the future of the Olympics over the next four weeks, the organization reticent to make what it would deem a premature call to postpone. Only three Olympics – 1916, 1940 and 1944 – have ever been cancelled, all due to world wars.

The Statement in Full:

Team Canada will not send athletes to Games in summer 2020 due to COVID-19 risks

TORONTO (March 22, 2020) – The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC), backed by their Athletes’ Commissions, National Sports Organizations and the Government of Canada, have made the difficult decision to not send Canadian teams to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in the summer of 2020.

The COC and CPC urgently call on the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to postpone the Games for one year and we offer them our full support in helping navigate all the complexities that rescheduling the Games will bring. 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 COC and CPC reviewed the letter and news release sent Sunday by the IOC. We are thankful to the IOC for its assurance that it will not be cancelling the Tokyo 2020 Games and appreciative that it understands 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 COC and CPC would like to thank our athletes, partners and the Canadian sport community for their patience and for lending us their voices during these unprecedented times. We remain hopeful that the IOC and IPC will agree with the decision to postpone the Games as a part of our collective responsibility to protect our communities and work to contain the spread of the virus.

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22 comments

  1. Kathie Hogan

    Good! Now let’s see other countries make the same decision!

  2. Kelly Spencer Williams

    My heart breaks for these athletes. I hate that this is happening at all, but now, after years of training and sacrificing to have it all pulled away. This comes from the mother of a competitive athlete who has watched events he worked years to qualify for be cancelled. Yes, I know there will be others and that life is more important, but these kids still deserve the chance to grieve what they’ve lost.

    • Peter Scott

      Kelly Spencer Williams understood but there are many grieving for loved ones taken by this virus……I am sn athlete but my thoughts are mostly with them right now and the immediate goal of keeping family safe. Stay safe ✊

    • Kelly Spencer Williams

      Peter Scott did you even read my comment?! I in no way downplayed what is going on, but brought up what others are facing as a consequence.

    • Peter Scott

      Kelly Spencer Williams yes I did. I am currently 4days in lockdown and my priority is to stay safe. But to hold the Olympics would be in bad taste considering the efforts and sacrifices the people are making to contain the disease. Olympics are a luxury not a necessity. Going to Tokyo to race. While people are not even allowed to go to the market is not right.
      Sacrifices have to be made. Getting up at 5:15am and training 6 days a week and forgoing disco and other activities is not a sacrifice. Refraining from what you love is a sacrifice.
      Sorry but I’m not getting at you. Stay safe💓

    • Kelly Spencer Williams

      Peter Scott I said I feel for the athletes who have the right to mourn what they have lost during this pandemic. Years of those early mornings, two a day practices, six days a week. Working to make the time cut to get to reach the big meet and then losing the chance to participate. They have a right to feel disappointment and for some of them, this was the end, there will be no next season, so let them mourn. It doesn’t take away from the pandemic, it shows empathy.

    • Peter Scott

      Kelly Spencer Williams I agree 100%. Really sorry if it came across that I was getting at you. Stay safe😍

  3. John Mcleod

    May want to update the title of the article to include the Paralympic Games as well as those are a separate competition and they have the same stance.

    • Mike Thompson

      John Mcleod since they used Tess Routliffe as the cover picture and all…

  4. Christopher Sykes

    I hope others follow in protest. It’s unfortunate it’s come to this, the IOC needs to push back the competing dates

  5. Vee Au

    Well being of athletes always comes first!

  6. Alberta Haynes-Carlson

    POSTPONE THE OLYMPICS til everything calms down and this will give the athletes time to mentally recuperate from this Outbreak/ Quarantine and also the time to physically Train/ Condition their bodies to perform at supreme levels.

  7. Nancy Pulham

    It’s crazy to think anything other than postponement is even an option. Well done Team Canada! 🇨🇦

  8. Martin Levine

    Keep athletes safe, keep athlete preparation fair!

  9. Mis NoOne

    Why they even proceed with the olympic? Does sports are more important than people’s lives? 🤔🤔🤔
    Why so selfish?

  10. Donald P. Spellman

    What a wonderful move for Canada 🇨🇦 and therefore the world 🌍

    • avatar
      Craig Lord - Swimming World Editor-in-Chief

      Indeed. Good on ’em

  11. Cyndi Starr

    Well done Canada. Now the rest of the freaking world needs to wake the hell up. It’s too much pressure for athletes. Postpone it and get it over with.

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