Japan’s Abe says coronavirus outbreak could make Olympics delay ‘unavoidable’

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe says a postponement of the Tokyo Olympics would be unavoidable if the games cannot be held in a complete way because of the coronavirus impact.

He 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.

Mr Abe, speaking at a parliamentary session, ruled out the possibility of a cancellation.

Whether Tokyo can hold the Olympics as planned from July 24 has been a major international concern as the Covid-19 pandemic has spread globally.

Meanwhile the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) says it will not send athletes to Tokyo unless the Games are postponed by at least a year.

“The Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC), backed by their Athletes’ Commissions, National Sports Organisations and the Government of Canada, have made the difficult decision to not send Canadian teams to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in the summer of 2020,” the COC said in a statement.

“The COC and CPC urgently call on the 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.

“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.

“We remain hopeful that the IOC and IPC will agree with the decision to postpone the Games as a part of our collective responsibility to protect our communities and work to contain the spread of the virus.”

The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) has also told its athletes to prepare for an inevitable delay.

“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,” AOC chief Matt Carroll said in a statement.

Canada and Australia join a number of countries — including Norway, Brazil and Slovenia — that have pressed the IOC on a possible postponement.

But none had said they would not go if the games start as scheduled.