23rd March 2020
The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES) applauds the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and the Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) for the bold leadership they have demonstrated in deciding not to send Canadian teams to the Tokyo Games if they are held this summer.
The CCES also recommends that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) immediately postpone the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games until the World Health Organization (WHO) advises that the threat of coronavirus is sufficiently contained.
The world is in the midst of fighting the greatest public health crisis of our time.
The WHO, based on the best available medical and scientific evidence-informed advice, has affirmed that the coronavirus pandemic is a profound crisis and that stringent social distancing measures are required. Consistent with this advice and the advice of Canadian experts, the Canadian government has endorsed this view and is actively amplifying this message.
We must consider all of our decisions, including what to do about the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, through this public health lens.
The CCES places tremendous value and importance on the Olympic and Paralympic Games. We appreciate the sacrifices made by athletes as they get ready to compete in the Games. We recognize the efforts of governments at all levels, event organizers, and sport organizations in planning and preparing for these Games. But these factors and business considerations must never take priority over the health and safety of all athletes, their family and friends, their support personnel and, more generally, the health and safety of all Canadians and others around the world.
Not making a decision right now to postpone the Games is indefensible for at least the following three reasons. First, it forces athletes to make decisions about whether to risk getting infected by training at a level that would be required to be ready to compete in the Tokyo Games on the basis of inconsistent explicit and implicit messages about the likely duration of the crisis, the severity of the risks, and the urgent need for maximum social distancing. Second, it puts athletes’ families, friends, and the general public at risk if athletes attempt to continue training and do not maximize social distancing – an increased risk that may further overload healthcare systems around the world. Third, it undermines the efforts of the WHO and national and local governments to have their citizens adopt the necessary social distancing measures.
By not acting immediately to postpone the Games, the IOC and IPC send the message that they value the Games over and above the health and wellbeing of athletes, Canadians, and indeed all citizens of the world. The IOC and IPC must not send that message. The CCES therefore calls on the IOC and IPC to immediately postpone the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games until the WHO advises that the threat of coronavirus is sufficiently contained.