Canadian committees seeking one-year postponement . . .
While news broke today that at least one International Olympic Committee (IOC) member (Dick Pound, a Canadian who has been one of the most influential members of the IOC for decades) has said that the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games are going to be postponed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, neither the IOC nor the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee had formally announced a decision to postpone as of Monday afternoon. The Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee, meanwhile, announced on Sunday night that no Canadian team will participate in the scheduled Games, making Canada the first country to withdraw. The committees urged the IOC to postpone the Games for one year.
Postponement could cost Japan C$8.3 billion . . .
Amidst widespread calls for scheduling changes, the Olympic Flame arrived in Japan to much fanfare, marking the beginning of the Japanese leg of the torch relay. Officials in Japan have long maintained that the Olympics would open as scheduled on July 24, but in a significant reversal, Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo acknowledged for the first time today that it may be necessary to delay holding the Games and “give top priority to athletes.” Organizers have been asked to draw up different postponement plans. According to one estimate, a one-year postponement will incur economic losses of over C$8.3 billion due to rescheduling and additional maintenance costs. The rippling effects of postponement, combined with the COVID-19 pandemic, could push Japan further toward its worst recession since the 2008 Financial Crisis.
Countries step up despite IOC inaction . . .
The IOC, whose response to the coronavirus outbreak has been criticized as slow, irresponsible, and tone-deaf, has done little this week to repair its reputation. Canada’s withdrawal may be a harbinger for things to come as countries have begun making Olympics decisions independently. Shortly after Canada’s announcement, the Australian Olympic Committee said that it would not risk its athletes’ health and well-being and that athletes should be preparing for a Summer Games held in 2021. National Olympic Committees in New Zealand, Brazil, and Slovenia, as well as the heads of U.S. Swimming and Track and Field, have also called for the Games to be postponed until 2021.