Olympics news, coronavirus | Australian Olympic Committee cancels Tokyo 2020 plans, flags 2021 Games
The Australian Olympic Committee has cancelled its plans for Tokyo 2020 due to coronavirus and is targeting a postponed Games in mid-2021.
The AOC decision came after the International Olympic Committee finally admitted that it needed to look at rescheduling Tokyo 2020, set for July-August, and confirmed that it did not intend to cancel the Games.
The IOC was facing massive backlash from national sporting federations, among them USA Swimming and USA Track of Field, while Canada on Monday announced that it would not participate in the Olympics if they were held as planned this year.
The AOC executive board held a teleconference on Monday morning to confirm its plans. On Sunday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that Australian athletes would not be able to travel to Tokyo 2020 amid travel crackdowns.
“We have athletes based overseas, training at central locations around Australia as teams and managing their own programs. With travel and other restrictions this becomes an untenable situation,” AOC chief executive Matt Carroll said in a statement.
“The IOC had adopted the key principles of putting athlete health first and ensuring it acted in their best interests and the interests of sport. This decision reflects those principles.
“We are now in a position where we can plan with greater certainty.”
Former Olympic pole vault gold medallist Steve Hooker, now the AOC Athletes’ Commission Chair, consulted on the decision. Feedback was also taken from Aussie athletes from more than 25 sports.
“It’s clear the Games can’t be held in July. Our athletes have been magnificent in their positive attitude to training and preparing, but the stress and uncertainty has been extremely challenging for them,” Australian chef de mission Ian Chesterman said.
“They have also shouldered the burden of concern for their peers around the world. That has been a consistent message to me.
“While there will still be much to work out as a result of this change, the timing will allow athletes from around the world to properly prepare with the hope the coronavirus crisis will be under control.
“We are aware that for many such a postponement will present a range of new issues. But when the world does come together at the Tokyo Olympic Games they can be a true celebration of sport and humanity.”
Postponing the Olympics will present a logistical nightmare for both the IOC and AOC, but Chesterman said that the problems could be overcome.
Any postponement would need also apply to the Paralympics, which were scheduled to be held after the Tokyo 2020 Games in August-September.