*UPDATED: Mar. 24, 2020*
Three days before the International Olympic Committee (IOC) officially postponed the Tokyo Games, Team Australia began preparing for the inevitable.
On Sunday, Mar. 22, the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) instructed its athletes to prepare for a Tokyo Olympic Games in the summer of 2021, not 2020. The missive was released following the IOC’s announcement on Sunday of a potential postponement of this year’s Games and Team Canada’s declaration that no Canadian athletes would be sent to the 2020 Games due to COVID-19 risks.
“The AOC believes our athletes now need to prioritise their own health and of those around them, and to be able to return to the families,” read the statement by the AOC.
AOC Chief Executive Matt Carroll said the decision was based on the need for certainty when preparing for a major championship and the desire to do the right thing for athletes, their families and the world community:
“We have athletes based overseas, training at central locations around Australia as teams and managing their own programs. With travel and other restrictions this becomes an untenable situation.
“The IOC had adopted the key principles of putting athlete health first and ensuring it acted in their best interests and the interests of sport. This decision reflects those principles.
“We are now in a position where we can plan with greater certainty.”
According to Australian Team Chef de Mission for Tokyo Ian Chesterman, it’s a decision supported by their athletes. Chesterman received feedback from athletes from more than 25 sports last week.
“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 has been extremely challenging for them.
“They have also shouldered the burden of concern for their peers around the world. That has been a consistent message to me.
“While there will still be much to work out as a result of this change, the timing will allow athletes from around the world to properly prepare with the hope the coronavirus crisis will be under control.
“We are aware that for many such a postponement will present a range of new issues. But when the world does come together at the Tokyo Olympic Games they can be a true celebration of sport and humanity.”
Two days later, on Tuesday, Mar. 24, the IOC followed suit with an official postponement of the Games.
No new dates have yet been set for the Games.