(Reuters) – Reaction to Canada’s boycott of the 2020 Tokyo Games due to concerns about the coronavirus. The Australian Olympic Committee has also said its athletes should prepare for an Olympics next year.
COMMENTS FROM OFFICIALS
Statement from Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and Paralympic Committee (CPC):
“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.
“We are in the midst of a global health crisis that is far more significant than sport.”
Canada’s chef de mission Marnie McBean said in a letter to athletes: “Please remember we are all in this together as Team Canada, and as a nation. The key is for the Olympics to happen when it is safe and responsible for everyone.”
Marc-Andre Fabien, president of the Canadian Paralympic Committee, said in a statement: “We are relieved that cancelling the Games is not a consideration, but we feel that a four-week timeline on a decision is not soon enough, and that a one-year postponement of the Games is truly the only option.”
Australian Olympic Committee statement:
“The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) says Australian athletes should prepare for a Tokyo Olympic Games in the northern summer of 2021, following the IOC’s announcement of a potential postponement of this year’s Games and changes in public health landscape in Australia and across the globe.
“The AOC believes our athletes now need to prioritize their own health and of those around them, and to be able to return to the families, in discussion with their National Federations.”
Swimming Australia chief executive Leigh Russell supported the AOC’s decision. “Although it’s a devastating prospect for the Games to be postponed, it is the correct decision, as we must focus on our families and our communities at this challenging time.
“When the time is right, we will look ahead to the planning phase for 2021 but right now our focus must remain on stopping and slowing the spread of COVID-19 and supporting our people,” Russell said in a statement.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, speaking to parliament, said postponing the Olympics was an option if holding them in their “complete form” became impossible.
“If that becomes difficult, we may have no option but to consider postponing the Games, given the Olympic principle of putting the health of athletes first.”
Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, who is also responsible for sports, posted on Twitter:
“To our athletes: Representing your country at this time also means protecting your health and the health of those surrounding you … We will keep cheering you up, everyday.”
Five-time Olympian Hayley Wickenheiser, who was an early critic of IOC’s plan to press ahead with the Tokyo Games, wrote on Twitter: “Very proud of (Canadian flag) this evening.”
Canada’s world champion swimmer Maggie MacNeil, who is hoping to make her Olympic debut in Tokyo, posted on Instagram: “Sometimes you just need a good hug… I know that it is in the best interest of the athletes and society. The right choice was made, but it doesn’t make it any easier.”
Canadian former IOC member and Olympic sprinter Charmaine Crooks posted on Twitter:
“As an Olympian, feeling for Team Canada athletes and coaches who have worked so hard…I know these decisions will impact many beyond sport! Health first.”
Canadian hurdler Sage Watson, the reigning Pan American champion in the 400 meters hurdles, posted on Twitter:
“I believe in the safety of our lives but this is premature.”
Canadian long distance track runner Justyn Knight said on Twitter: “I support my country no matter what. However I believe each athlete should make their own decision in regards to dealing with a matter like this.”
Canadian boxer Mandy Bujold, a two-time Pan American Games champion, said on Twitter: “Staying healthy right now is the No. 1 priority for everyone. I will continue to do the training that I can and do my part in keeping my community and family safe.”
Former Olympic medalist Brittany Maclean said on Twitter: “My heart breaks for the athletes & all who have put their heart and soul into these Games. But I’m so proud of the leadership that has been taken by the COC, CPC & the voice of Canadian athletes, to take a stand for global health.”
Canadian tennis player Gabriela Dabrowski posted on Twitter: “Competing in the Olympics is my #1 goal but I fully support this decision and I commend our leadership for taking a stand. I hope more nations follow suit.”
Canadian tennis player Vasek Pospisil wrote on Twitter: “Tough decision but the right one. Athletes can wait. Sporting events can wait. This is bigger than sports.”
Canadian Paralympic swimmer Camille Berube said on Twitter: “Very difficult news to process tonight. It’s been quite the rollercoaster lately & I must admit I did not see this one coming. Nevertheless, I’m proud of our country for making such a bold but wise decision.”
Canadian wrestler Jasmine Mian posted on Twitter: “If Canada was hosting the Olympics, we wouldn’t want the world to descend upon us, so we shouldn’t impose this on Japan.”
Former U.S. Olympian Lolo Jones said on Twitter: “YESSSSSS CANADA!!!!!!! pulls out of OLYMPICS UNLESS IOC POSTPONE!!! OUR HEALTH IS MORE important than sport. Hopefully the UNITED STATES is next.”
Compiled by Ian Ransom and Hardik Vyas; Editing by Lincoln Feast/Peter Rutherford