The maple leaf has wilted: Canada pulls out of the 2020 Olympics

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Canada withdraws from 2020 Olympics. Wikimedia Commons

Athletes rise in support of Canada as impending Olympic postponement looms

The Canadian Olympic committee shocked the sporting world on Mar. 23, leading the world’s sporting organizations in officially pulling out of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. In a press release on an otherwise sleepy Monday morning, Canada announced their decision:

“The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC), backed by their Athletes’ Commissions, National Sports Organizations and the Government of Canada, have made the difficult decision to not send Canadian teams to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in the summer of 2020.”

The announcement comes in the face of IOC President Thomas Bach’s repeated insistence that it is too early to decide on the postponement of the games, despite many athletes and organizations pushing to postpone to 2021 or beyond. These organizations include two of the largest medal-winning groups at the Olympic games, USA Swimming and USA Track and Field, both of whom urged the US Olympic committee to delay the Olympics. In response to the push, Bach finally announced a four-week timeline to decide on Olympic postponement or cancellation.

However, the decision will likely not take four weeks. Following Canada’s withdrawal, Australia has too barred their athletes from Olympic competition. In response to an impending Olympic decision, athletes are ambivalent. With restricted training, many are relieved things are heading toward postponement, but the decision does not come without disappointment.

In a tweet responding to the announcement, defending Olympic gold medalist in the trampoline, Rosie Maclennan voiced her support for the Canadian Olympic committee. With the hashtag “37 million strong,” Maclennan wrote:

“It’s an honour to represent #teamcanada in a sport I love. I am so proud to be part of a team that had prioritized the health of the true Team Canada and the world. Postpone today, conquer tomorrow.”

Rio wrestling gold medalist Erica Wiebe voiced a more ambivalent opinion. While Wiebe admits,

“I stood on the podium in Rio and I wanted to do it again in Tokyo.”

“The most critical thing right now is protecting our community’s health and safety.”

Athletes from other countries across disciplines have also voiced their support for Canada’s decision. Swimming Olympic gold medalist and world record holder Adam Peaty tweets:

“So the Canadians have pulled out of the Olympics and the Australians said they won’t travel this summer, @Worldathletics have also put the pressure on IOC to move. Let’s hope @final1908 do the right thing in the next few days, not weeks.”

American Olympic champion in decathlon Ashton Eaton also tweeted:

“#Tokyo2021. Nothing else makes sense.”

As an Olympic hopeful myself, I am ambivalent about the situation. For fair competition and the health and safety of the global population I think postponement is the only decision and I am proud of Canada for leading the way. On the other hand, as an athlete, if the Olympics are cancelled. 2024 seems a long way off.

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