On Sunday, the International Olympic Committee announced they were having discussions around “scenario planning” for various possibilities for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, due to the uncertainty surrounding this summer’s games due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
In the statement they insisted canceling the games was not on the table, as had been initially postured, but instead they were discussing the potential of running a scaled down games or postponing them to a later date. There are obvious difficulties with the latter option, as there are tons of moving parts and it would require all national federations and club organizations to agree to allow athletes to compete during times that would be typically reserved for other competitions. However, at the same time, it seems impossible that by July 24, the coronavirus outbreak will be contained to the point that they can ensure athletes and fans would be able to participate without concern, and as such postponing may be the only option.
What may end up making the decision for the IOC is pressure from major national Olympic committees. USA Swimming has asked the USOPC to push for a postponement of the games, citing the difficulty of even training right now at an elite level, much less preparing for the largest competition in the sport. On Sunday, Canada took things a step further, announcing publicly that they will not be sending any athletes to the Olympics if they take place during the summer.
BREAKING: The Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee will refuse to send athletes to the Tokyo Olympics if the event is not postponed.The 2020 Games are currently set to begin on July 24. News release: pic.twitter.com/NT8twsqAXI
— CBC News Alerts (@CBCAlerts) March 23, 2020
It is a massive step and may open the door for more NOCs to do the same, as their influence on this matter has the chance to force the IOC’s hand. If more large national federations like Canada’s make similar statements, particularly if the United States follows suit, the Olympics would surely have to find a way to push things back and make it work with various outside organizations to make scheduling happen, both internationally and in Japan where they would need to lock down new venue reservations.