The two countries withdrew their athletes right before the International Olympics Committee announced that they would postpone the event.
Public gatherings across the world are being canceled in the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak. We bid farewell to March Madness, Coachella, graduation ceremonies, and funerals. It appears that Australia and Canada are saying goodbye to the 2020 Olympics as well. To protect their athletes and prevent the spread of the deadly COVID-19, both countries affirmed in a joint statement that they would not be sending their athletes to participate in the upcoming sporting event, CNN reports. As the event may put public health at risk, the International Olympic Committee' has officially postponed the Games until 2021.
In addition to withdrawing their athletes, both countries' Olympics committees called for the event to be postponed until next year. The Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee affirmed in a joint statement published on Sunday, "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." It was unlikely that travel restrictions would have been eased for a global event like the Olympics, making the sporting gala an even more unviable affair.
Similarly, after a meeting held by teleconference on Monday this week, the Australian Olympic Committee's executive board unanimously agreed that it would not be possible to assemble an Australian Olympic team "given the changing circumstances across the world." The executive board stated, "Our athletes now need to prioritise their own health and of those around them, and to be able to return to the families." Additionally, Australian Team Chef de Mission for Tokyo Ian Chesterman stated, "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 [have] been extremely challenging for them." Matt Carroll, Australian Olympic Committee CEO, added, "The athletes desperately want to go to the games... But they also take on board their own personal health. We need to give our athletes that certainty and that's what we've done."
Hours before the two countries' decision to withdraw their athletes from the upcoming Games, the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) executive board communicated that it was considering postponing - though not canceling - the 2020 Olympics. The IOC at the time said it is considering various options as the Coronavirus outbreak continues, including modifying plans to allow the 2020 Tokyo Games to begin on schedule on July 24 or changing the start date for the sporting event. They ruled out canceling the event as it would "destroy the Olympic dream of 11,000 athletes" and all the fans, friends, and family members who support them.
Prior to their decision to postpone, the committee faced massive pressure to do so. This is not the first time that the Olympics were confronted with such demands. During the Cold War, large boycotts limited participation in both the 1980 and 1984 Games. More drastically, the sporting event was canceled in 1916, 1940, and 1944 owing to major World Wars. While this may not be a wartime situation, countries across the world are grappling with a major public health crisis. Some athletes have not had the opportunity to train as they should, given they cannot visit gyms and access other sporting resources. The decision to postpone the event was perhaps better for everyone involved.