IOC to consider moving Olympic Games as Canada withdraws

23 Mar 2020

By: Sport Industry Group

IOC has said it will make a decision on whether to postpone the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 in four weeks, but has ruled out cancellation.

In a statement, the IOC said that ‘health and safety’ is ‘paramount’ and that it would step up its contingency planning for the Games, which could involve moving to a later date or scaling back the event.

"To safeguard the health of all involved and to contribute to the containment of COVID-19, the Executive Board (EB) of the IOC [has] announced that the IOC will step up its scenario-planning for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020," it said in a statement.

"These scenarios relate to modifying existing operational plans for the Games to go ahead on 24 July 2020, and also for changes to the start date of the Games."

In a letter to athletes, IOC President Thomas Bach said: “Human lives take precedence over everything, including the staging of the Games. The IOC wants to be part of the solution. Therefore we have made it our leading principle to safeguard the health of everyone involved, and to contribute to containing the virus. I wish, and we all are working for this, that the hope so many athletes, NOCs and IFs from all five continents have expressed will be fulfilled: that at the end of this dark tunnel we are all going through together, not knowing how long it is, the Olympic flame will be a light at the end of this tunnel.”

Meanwhile, the Canadian Olympic Committee and the Canadian Paralympic Committee have both said that they will not be sending athletes to the Games ‘in the summer of 2020’.

In a joint statement, the pair said: “The COC and CPC urgently call on the IOC, and the IPC and the WHO to postpone the Games for one year and we offer them our full support in helping navigate all the complexities that rescheduling the Games will bring. 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. With COVID-19 and the associated risks, it is not safe for our athletes, and the health and safety of their families and the broader Canadian community for athletes to continue training towards these Games. In fact, it runs counter to the public health advice which we urge all Canadians to follow.”

Sebastian Coe, President, World Athletics, has also called for the Olympic Games to be postponed, and has penned a letter to Bach and the IOC urging them to find an alternative date. World Athletics has also said it will work with the IOC and ‘all of sport’ to find a suitable time for rescheduling.

"Whilst we all know that different parts of the world are at different stages of the virus,” Coe said in his letter, “the unanimous view across all our areas is that an Olympic Games in July this year is neither feasible nor desirable."