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Japanese PM admits Olympic postponement may be 'unavoidable' as Canada withdraw from 2020 Games

 

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Planning ahead: the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo may have to wait a little longer to welcome the world’s best athletes

Planning ahead: the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo may have to wait a little longer to welcome the world’s best athletes

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Massimo Cellino

Massimo Cellino

Getty Images

Planning ahead: the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo may have to wait a little longer to welcome the world’s best athletes

The Tokyo Olympics appear certain to be postponed until next year due to the coronavirus, as Canada and Australia said they were looking ahead to a 2021 Games.

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe told his country's parliament on Monday a postponement of the games would be unavoidable if the they cannot be held in a complete way because of the coronavirus impact.

Abe was commenting on the International Olympic Committee (IOC)'s plan to examine the situation over the next few weeks and make a decision, which could include a postponement.

Abe, speaking at a parliamentary session, ruled out the possibility of a cancellation, comments that fall in line with the view of the IOC.

Abe told parliament postponing the Games - due to start on July 24 - may be an option if holding the event in "complete form" became impossible.

"If it is difficult to hold (the Games) in a complete way a decision of postponement would be unavoidable as we think the athletes' safety is paramount," he said.

The Olympics have never been postponed or cancelled during peacetime.

Meanwhile, Canadian officials said they would not be sending athletes to Tokyo if the games went ahead.

In a statement, the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and the country's paralympic committee "urgently" called on the IOC, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) to postpone the Games for one year.

"We offer them our full support in helping navigate all the complexities that rescheduling the Games will bring," the statement said.

"While we recognise the inherent complexities around a postponement, nothing is more important than the health and safety of our athletes and the world community."

The Australian Olympic Committee said in a statement: "Australian athletes should prepare for a Tokyo Olympic Games in the northern summer of 2021."

It added the Australian team "could not be assembled in the changing circumstances at home and abroad".

But in response to growing calls for a delay over the Covid-19 pandemic, the IOC now accepts the Games could be moved to a new date.

In a statement, the IOC's executive board said it would now step up its "scenario-planning" to look at the different possibilities in what is an ever-changing situation in Japan and globally.

The statement added: "The IOC EB emphasised that a cancellation of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 would not solve any of the problems or help anybody. Therefore, cancellation is not on the agenda."

PA