Sports

Canada, Australia pull out of Tokyo Games, with more set to follow

Canada became the first country to pull out of the Tokyo Games due to the coronavirus pandemic and Australia told its athletes to prepare for an Olympics next year as Japan and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) flagged the prospect of a postponement for the first time yesterday.

Last night, Norway also said it should not send athletes to the Tokyo Games until the pandemic clears.

Opposition to holding the Games in July has risen sharply in the past 48 hours, with several major stakeholders such as US Track and Field, and UK Athletics, along with some national Olympic committees, calling for a delay because of the health crisis.

More than 15,000 people have died globally since the coronavirus outbreak began.

Canada's Olympic Committee said it reviewed the IOC's assessment of the situation and applauded it for recognising the need to consider alternate scenarios for hosting the Games.

"YESSSSSS CANADA!!!!!!! pulls out of OLYMPICS UNLESS IOC POSTPONE!!!," tweeted US hurdler Lolo Jones.

"OUR HEALTH IS MORE important than sport. Hopefully the UNITED STATES is next."

The United States Olympic Committee (USOPC) said it would not be commenting on Canada's decision, but had earlier welcomed the IOC's statement, saying more clarity was needed.

US media reported on Sunday that American athletes had voted during a virtual town hall with USOPC officials and given Tokyo the thumbs down.

Almost three-quarters of the 300 athletes who met online with USOPC supported delaying the Games, USA Today reported.

The Olympics have never been postponed or cancelled during peacetime, but the IOC's decision to even consider postponement was met with relief from stakeholders such as World Athletics, the International Paralympic Committee and national Olympic committees.

The last major boycott of the Olympics was when the Soviet bloc stayed away from the 1984 Los Angeles Games, although North Korea and Cuba skipped Seoul 1988. - REUTERS

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