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Veteran IOC member reportedly says 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be postponed

The decision to postpone the games would come after the Australian and Canadian Olympic Committees both pulled out of the Olympics.

Megan Rapinoe #15 of the United States celebrates Sam Mewis' #3 goal against Mexico during an Olympic qualifying match. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Long-time International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound said the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be postponed — most likely until 2021 — during an interview with USA Today’s Christine Brennan.

“On the basis of the information the IOC has, postponement has been decided,” Pound said in a phone interview with Brennan. “The parameters going forward have not been determined, but the Games are not going to start on July 24, that much I know.”

Pound is a former Canadian swimmer who has served as one of the most important members of the IOC for decades. He said the IOC will announce its next step soon, with a postponement coming first followed by decisions coming in stages as the IOC deals with the ramifications of rescheduling the Games.

His remarks were published after the International Olympic Committee announced a four-week deadline on Sunday to determine a path for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

During the four-week period, the committee announced it would determine if it is postponing the Olympic Games and begin setting plans for a possible rescheduling.

The Tokyo Olympics are currently set to begin on July 24, and it is unclear to health officials if the pandemic will be under control by that date. In the meantime, the training process of every Olympic hopeful has been majorly disrupted, as athletes are encouraged to remain at home and not use gyms or training facilities.

“Like you, we are very much concerned about what the COVID-19 pandemic is doing to people’s lives,” IOC president Thomas Bach Human wrote in a letter to Olympic athletes during the weekend. “Human lives take precedence over everything, including the staging of the Games. The IOC wants to be part of the solution. Therefore we have made it our leading principle to safeguard the health of everyone involved, and to contribute to containing the virus. I would like to assure you that we will adhere to this in all our decisions concerning the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.”

The four-week window for making a postponement decision didn’t sit well with athletes or many countries slated to participate in the games. 

The Canadian Olympic Committee led the way, announcing Sunday night its athletes would not participate in the Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer unless they were postponed.

“This is not solely about athlete health — it is about public health,” the statement read. “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 Canadian men’s and women’s soccer teams issued their own statement in support of the decision.

The Australian Olympic Committee followed, pulling out of the Tokyo Olympics on Monday morning. The governing body told its athletes to prepare for a 12-month postponement of the Tokyo Olympics.

Australia’s increased involvement in the possible boycott is particularly notable because the president of the Australian Olympic committee — John Coates — is the head of the panel run by the IOC that directly oversees preparations for the Tokyo Olympics.

“It’s clear the Games can’t be held in July,” Australia Chef de Mission Ian Chesterman said during a press conference. “Our athletes have been magnificent in their positive attitude to training and preparing, but the stress and uncertainty has been extremely challenging for them.”

Both the Australian and the Canadian women’s national soccer teams had previously qualified for the Tokyo Olympics. Their boycott of the Games accounts for one eighth of the pool of teams currently slated to compete.

Although the U.S. Olympic Committee has yet to take an official stance on the issue, USA Track and Field and USA Swimming both issued statements last week calling for a postponement of the Olympics. The American governing body did release a statement of unity on Sunday, saying it is “eager to explore alternatives.”

A postponement of the 2020 Olympic Games would create another disruption for many athletes throughout the NWSL and MLS. Both the U.S. and Canadian women’s national teams have successfully qualified for the Tokyo Olympics. However, CONCACAF qualifying for the men’s sides was postponed in the midst of the pandemic’s spread, leaving the future uncertain for the U.S. and Canadian men’s teams.

A possible rescheduling of the Olympics could also affect the future calendars for the 2021 NWSL and MLS seasons, as leagues work to fit a new set of international windows into the structure of their seasons. With the 2020 season already postponed by at least two months, this will add to the continued logistical concerns for both leagues.

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