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Canada pulls out of Summer Olympics; Australia expects 1-year delay

Canadian athletes enter the stadium during the Opening Ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on August 5, 2016. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Canadian athletes enter the stadium during the Opening Ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on August 5, 2016. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

March 22 (UPI) -- Canada said Sunday it won't send athletes to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo this summer due to the coronavirus pandemic, and Australia told its athletes to prepare for the event to be postponed.

Canadian Olympic and Paralympic officials said in a statement their decision is backed by the Canadian government.

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Team Canada also called on the International Olympic Committee to postpone the games for one year, and offered to help "navigate all the complexities that rescheduling the Games will bring."

"While we recognize the inherent complexities around a postponement, nothing is more important than the health and safety of our athletes and the world community," organizers said.

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The COC said the decision was made not only to ensure the health of its athletes but to ensure the health of the public. It said having athletes continue to train "runs counter to the public health advice, which we urge all Canadians to follow."

The announcement follows word from the IOC earlier Sunday that it's considering postponement and has established a timeline for when it will decide.

The Australian Olympic Committee said Monday it expects the Games to be moved to next year.

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"The AOC believes our athletes now need to prioritize their own health and of those around them," it said in a statement.

Ian Chesterman, Australian Team Chef de Mission for Tokyo, said "it's clear" the games can't be held in July, and the stress of uncertainty has been "extremely challenging" for the athletes.

"We are aware that for many such a postponement will present a range of new issues," Chesterman said. "But when the world does come together at the Tokyo Olympic Games, they can be a true celebration of sport and humanity."

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