VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Canada has become the first country to refuse to attend the upcoming Olympics, and the Canadian Olympic Committee is demanding the 2020 Summer Games be postponed by a year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Games are set to begin in July, but unless it’s pushed to 2021, there will be a wave of red and white missing.
It’s a move many athletes, like Olympic marathon walker Evan Dunfee, have applauded.
“I’m really proud to be part of Team Canada and to see them sort of stand up and be global role models saying, ‘Nope, we are giving our athletes the peace of mind to know today what’s happening, and this is our stance,’” the athlete from Richmond told NEWS 1130.
Athletes can spend years ahead of the Olympics or Paralympics refining their craft to prepare or compete.
The Canadian Olympic Committee’s statement came amid a chorus of criticism aimed at the International Olympic Committee’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The IOC has said it is going to delay a decision for up to a month, but that cancelling the Games altogether is not on the table.
Despite Team Canada’s decision, Dunfee said he would continue to train.
“I’m much more unaffected than athletes who need access to pools, or to weight rooms, or gyms,” he said. “I consider myself one of the lucky ones.”
Dunfee is even planning to racewalk on the day he was supposed to compete at the Olympics.
Other athletes are also standing by the Canadian Olympic Committee’s decision, taking to Twitter to show their support.
“Leading the world,” former ice hockey player Hayley Wickenheiser wrote.
— Hayley Wickenheiser (@wick_22) March 23, 2020
“Tough decision but the right one,” tennis pro Vasek Pospisil Tweeted. “Athletes can wait. Sporting events can wait. This is bigger than sports.”
Tough decision but the right one . Athletes can wait. Sporting events can wait. This is bigger than sports. https://t.co/PBLiMowAnt
— Vasek Pospisil (@VasekPospisil) March 23, 2020
Former Canadian kayaker and Olympic champion-turned-MP Adam van Koeverden noted how hard the decision may have impacted some athletes, but noted in the end, it was about something more.
“This is so tough, for so many athletes,” he wrote. “But this situation is bigger than sport. The health & safety of our athletes, coaches, staff and fans has got to be our priority.”
This is so tough, for so many athletes.
But this situation is bigger than sport.
The health & safety of our athletes, coaches, staff and fans has got to be our top priority.
To the athletes: we support you % https://t.co/o1PLelqLJJ
— Adam van Koeverden (@vankayak) March 23, 2020
In a statement, the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee said, “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. In fact, it runs counter to the public health advice which we urge all Canadians to follow.”
The committees said they had reviewed the IOC’s letter on Sunday and that they were relieved the Games would not be cancelled outright.
“We also applaud the IOC for acknowledging that safeguarding the health and wellness of nations and containing the virus must be our paramount concern. We are in the midst of a global health crisis that is far more significant than sport.”