Australia has effectively withdrawn from the 2020 Olympics, saying sending a team to the Tokyo Games this year is untenable.
The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) has told athletes to prepare for Tokyo to host an Olympics next year, believing the Games cannot start this July as scheduled.
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The AOC held an executive board meeting on Monday and resolved that it was impossible to assemble an Australian team for 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have athletes based overseas, training at central locations around Australia as teams and managing their own programs,” AOC chief executive Matt Carroll said in a statement on Monday.
“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.”
Australian team chef de Mission Ian Chesterman added: “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.”
Australia's move comes after Canada also announced it would not send a team to this year's Tokyo Games, should it proceed as scheduled.
“The COC and CPC urgently call on the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the World Health Organisation (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,” the committees said in a statement.
“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,” it added.
Japan now open to Olympics postponement
Tokyo’s Olympics appear likely to be postponed with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) shifting its language on the sporting showpiece.
The IOC had previously remained steadfast in forging ahead with the Games but after a Sunday meeting canvassed a possible postponement.
The IOC has accelerating its scenario planning, with a decision to be made within the next four weeks, but added cancellation wasn't on the agenda - a stance backed by Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday.
Abe said a postponement was an option if holding the event in its “complete form” became impossible.
“If that becomes difficult, we may have no option but to consider postponing the Games,” he told Japan's parliament.
Aussie sporting landscape rocked by virus
The developments come as rugby league and soccer hierarchy in Australia hold crisis meetings to decide the immediate futures of their elite competitions.
Rugby union on Monday became the latest Australian sport to postpone a competition.
A day after the AFL suspended playing until at least May 31 because of the coronavirus pandemic, Rugby Australia (RA) has postponed a planned domestic competition.
RA had slated a remodelled domestic competition featuring the four Australian Super Rugby teams plus the Western Force.
But after initially hoping to start on April 3, RA now says it won't begin until May 1 at the earliest.
"The decision to postpone ... is in line with the suspension of all community rugby in Australia and will give us the opportunity to review our position across the whole rugby landscape in a month's time," RA chief executive Raelene Castle said on Monday.
The announcements come as the Australian Rugby League (ARL) commission hold an emergency meeting to determine the fate of the NRL season.
The NRL finished round two on Sunday and the league's chief executive Todd Greenberg said the competition would press ahead with its season until told otherwise by the government.
Football Federation Australia (FFA) was meeting with the remainder of the A-League in jeopardy - Perth Glory announced the scrapping of their fixture against Western United on Monday night.
with Yahoo Sports Staff