Technically, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are still full steam ahead, but countries concerned for their athletes’ safety are taking matters in their own hands and dropping out. Australia and Canada have become the first major countries to withdraw their athletes from the Games, casting immense doubt on the prospect of the event moving ahead as planned. Australia has already told its athletes to prepare instead for a possible Games in 2021, while Canada called on the International Olympic Committee to postpone the Olympics for a year.

According to a statement released by Canada’s Olympic and Paralympic committees, “While we recognise the inherent complexities around 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.”

Although Japan has firmly insisted that the Games should go ahead as planned, now Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is conceding that they should be delayed. “If it is difficult to hold [the games] in a complete way,” he said, “a decision of postponement would be unavoidable as we think the athletes’ safety is paramount.”

Currently, the Olympics are scheduled to begin on July 24.

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