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Several countries won't send athletes to Tokyo games


The Tokyo Olympics are going to happen but almost surely in 2021 rather than in four months as planned.

This became clear after the IOC on Sunday announced it was considering a postponement. Major Olympic nations like Canada and Australia have added pressure by saying they will not go if the games are staged this year.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach sent a letter to athletes explaining the decision and why it might take so long, while also acknowledging the extended timeline might not be popular.

The IOC's move seemed inevitable for a week with pressure mounting from all quarters, athletes, sponsors, broadcasters and more than 200 national Olympic committees, and international sports federations.

Shortly after Bach's statement, the Canadian Olympic Committee said it won't send teams unless the games are postponed by a year. Australia issued a statement saying it was advising its athletes to prepare for an Olympics in 2021.

World Athletics President Seb Coe sent a letter to Bach saying that holding the Olympics in July is "neither feasible nor desirable". He outlined a number of reasons, including competitive fairness, the likelihood athletes would overtrain if given a compressed schedule and the uncertainty caused by orders in many countries barring people from gyms and other workout venues.

National Olympic committees in Brazil and Slovenia had also called for a postponement until 2021. Norway’s Olympic body said it did not want athletes going to Tokyo until the global health crisis is under control.

The United States governing bodies of swimming and track — two of the three top-tier Summer Games sports — had called on their national Olympic officials to push for a postponement.

Japan's politicians fell in line quickly on Monday as they awakened to Bach's move.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, speaking at a parliamentary session, said a postponement of the Tokyo Olympics would be unavoidable if the games cannot be held in a complete way because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Japan is officially spending $12.6 billion to organize the Olympics, but a national audit put the figure at more than twice that much. The bill is sure to increase with any postponement, and the vast majority of the spending is from the public treasury.

The IOC has a reserve fund of about $2 billion to tide itself over and also has insurance against postponement or cancellation.

The Olympic torch arrived Friday in northern Japan. The torch relay is set to begin on Thursday from that area but is in doubt. On Sunday, thousands crowed one northern city to view the flame. Organizers have asked spectators to show restraint, threatening to delay the relay or change plans.

As of Sunday, Japan had 1,719 confirmed cases of the virus, including 712 from a cruise ship, with 43 deaths.

TOKYO (AP)