LUZERN, Switzerland — Late Sunday evening Canada said it won't send teams to the Olympics unless the games are postponed by a year. The Canadian Olympic Committee said holding the game as scheduled wouldn't be safe.
Canada joins a growing chorus of those calling for the games to be postponed and it seems that voice that continues to get louder is having an impact.
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe say a postponement of the Tokyo Olympics would be unavoidable if the games cannot be held in a complete way because of the coronavirus impact.
He was commenting on the International Olympic Committee plan to examine the situation over the next few weeks and make a decision, which could include a postponement.
Abe, speaking at a parliamentary session, ruled out the possibility of a cancellation.
Whether Tokyo can hold the Olympics as planned from July 24 has been a major international concern as the COVID-19 pandemic has spread globally.
Leaders at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee said the update provided by the IOC about the Tokyo Olympics signaled an important step but athletes are still beset with questions about whether the games will go ahead as scheduled in July.
The statement came from USOPC chair Sarah Hirshland and the athlete advisory council leader, Han Xiao.
They said they’re sticking with the advice Hirshland offered Friday - that athletes continue to prioritize their health and wellness over everything else. But they said they’re eager to explore alternatives “to ensure all athletes have a robust and fulfilling Olympic and Paralympic experience, regardless of when that can safely occur.”
The leader of the international track federation, Seb Coe, sent a letter to IOC president Thomas Bach saying holding the Olympics in July “is neither feasible nor desirable” with the coronavirus impacting huge swaths of the globe.
Coe sent the letter Sunday after meeting with leaders from around the world in track, which is the biggest sport at the Olympics. It came hours after the IOC announced it could take up to four weeks to make a decision on whether to postpone the games, which are scheduled to start July 24.
Coe cited issues of fairness, the increased likelihood of injuries if athletes have to rush through training and the uncertainty caused by public health issues that are forcing many countries to order all people to stay indoors.
Coe reiterated what he's said before - that nobody wants to see the Olympics postponed, but it can't be held at all costs, specifically the cost of athlete safety.
The IOC will take four weeks to weigh options for the Tokyo Games amid mounting calls from athletes and Olympic officials for a postponement due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The time will be used to plan different scenarios for the July 24-Aug. 9 games, the International Olympic Committee said Sunday.
“These scenarios relate to modifying existing operational plans for the Games to go ahead on 24 July 2020, and also for changes to the start date of the Games,” the IOC said.
Though canceling the Tokyo Olympics is not an option, a delay until later this year or in 2021 is possible.
The change in strategy followed IOC president Thomas Bach leading a telephone conference call with executive board members.
Bach has consistently said organizers are fully committed to holding the games from July 24-Aug. 9 - despite athlete training, qualifying events and games preparations being disrupted more and more by the virus outbreak spreading globally.
Criticism of the stance grew in recent days - from athletes and by a first IOC member last Tuesday - and Bach finally acknowledged an alternative plan was possible.
“Of course we are considering different scenarios,” Bach told the New York Times in an interview late Thursday.