The Olympic rings are seen in front of Canada House Monday, March 23, 2020 in Montreal. The Canadian Olympic Committee announced Canadian athletes will not compete at Tokyo 2020 Games due to COVID-19 risks.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Canadian IOC member Dick Pound expects Olympic postponement

The Summer Olympics are scheduled to start July 24 with the Paralympics slated to follow on Aug. 25

Veteran International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound of Montreal believes the 2020 Tokyo Games will be postponed.

Pound told The Canadian Press in a phone interview he expects the July 24 start of the Olympics to be pushed back.

“You’re looking at a postponement,” Pound said Monday. “I think that’s out there now.

“We’re all reading the tea leaves and so on, but the Japanese themselves are talking about postponing. A lot of National Olympic Committees and countries are calling for a postponement.”

Canada called for a postponement on Sunday night.

Earlier Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic committees made the right decision in announcing Canadian athletes will not go to this summer’s Olympics or Paralympics if they start on their scheduled dates.

Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, the COC said Sunday night it would hold back its athletes if the Games start as scheduled and called for a postponement until 2021.

“I know this heartbreaking for so many people — athletes, coaches, staff and fans. But this was absolutely the right call and everyone should follow their lead,” Trudeau said in Ottawa.

Trudeau said Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is “very much aware of the challenges” with the Tokyo Games attempting to start on time.

READ MORE: Canada refuses to go to Tokyo Games in 2020, asks for one-year postponement

The Summer Olympics are scheduled to start July 24 with the Paralympics slated to follow on Aug. 25.

The head of health and safety for the 2012 London Olympics, now the British Safety Council chair, lauded Canada’s stance and hopes other countries to follow suit.

“It’s absolutely the right call,” Lawrence Waterman said. “The difference between Canada and the IOC is that Canada has recognized delaying the decision is itself causing problems for people.

“Canada has spoken for itself. It hasn’t said ‘you must abandon the games.’ It’s just said we’re not going to participate this year. That is a way of putting respectful gentle pressure on the IOC.

“I’m hoping later this week the IOC makes the right decision and if it does, I think the Canadian position will have been seen to have hastened that and I think that’s in everyone’s interests.”

COC chief executive offer David Shoemaker said the organization took its lead from the Canadian government.

“The turning point was when the Government of Canada put a real emphasis on the importance of flattening the curve and social distancing, and what we realized is the question wasn’t so much could we send a team of athletes, coaches, mission team members, and fans and all the like to Tokyo to compete safely in July of 2020?” Shoemaker said on a conference call with reporters.

“The question was whether it was fair and appropriate to ask our athletes to be training for those Olympics in July today here in Canada, and put themselves, their families and their communities at risk? And the answer to that question was no.”

Canadian sprint star Andre De Grasse said he woke up with mixed emotions after hearing of the COC’s decision.

“It was a bold move. I was very surprised,” De Grasse said in a statement.

“Up until this morning, I’ve been doing the best job I could training on a grass soccer field after our regular training facilities were closed down. I’ve been feeling anxious going about my business of training when so much of the world has been under quarantine. On one hand I need to stay at home with my family and on the other, I need to keep training.

“After some solid results at last year’s world championships, I was really excited about the Games this summer and training had been going really well. At this stage I’m going to have sit down with my coach and re-evaluate my training plans. Right now it’s a waiting game.

Canada’s statement joins a growing chorus of critics around the IOC’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Australian Olympic Committee has told its athletes in a statement on its website they should prepare for the Tokyo Games in 2021.

IOC president Thomas Bach said earlier Sunday the global organization is considering options including postponement, and a decision will be made in four weeks.

Cancelling the Games entirely, Bach said, is not being considered.

Russia backed the IOC’s approach of taking time to consider postponing the Tokyo Games and condemned the body’s critics.

The Russian Olympic Committee called for “complete support” of the plan.

“We view as unacceptable any attempts to bring pressure on the organizations in charge responsible of staging the games and to force them to take rash decisions,” the ROC said in a statement.

The IOC and Japan’s organizing committee had consistently said the Games would go ahead as planned.

But Abe changed his tune Sunday, saying a postponement of the Tokyo Games would be unavoidable if the games cannot be held in a complete way because of the coronavirus.

With countless cancellations, only 57 per cent of Olympic qualification spots have been determined.

Since the first modern Olympics in Athens in 1896, only World Wars have cancelled Games in 1916, 1940 and 1944.

There have been three major boycotts, in 1976 in Montreal, 1980, and 1984.

The Canadian Press


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