Melbourne, March 23 (IANS) The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) on Monday said that they could not assemble a team for the Tokyo 2020 amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and thus their athletes should prepare for Olympic Games which look all set to be played in the summer of 2021.
In a media statement after holding an executive board meeting via teleconference, AOC said that it was "unanimously agreed that an Australian team could not be assembled in the changing circumstances at home and abroad."
"The AOC says Australian athletes should prepare for a Tokyo Olympic Games in the northern summer of 2021, following the IOC's announcement of a potential postponement of this year's Games and changes in public health landscape in Australia and across the globe."
The International Olympic Committee and Japanese government, under increasing pressure to take action, have flagged that postponement was possible. IOC has stated that postponing the 2020 Olympics is one option amid the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, although it added that cancelling the Games altogether is "not on the agenda.
IOC chief Thomas Bach, in an open letter to athletes around the world, however, said a decision on when to hold the Games would be made "within the next four weeks".
AOC Chief Executive Matt Carroll said athletes have needed certainty -- they wanted to do the right thing for themselves, their families and the world community.
"We have athletes based overseas, training at central locations around Australia as teams and managing their own programs. With travel and other restrictions this becomes an untenable situation.
"The IOC had adopted the key principles of putting athlete health first and ensuring it acted in their best interests and the interests of sport. This decision reflects those principles.
"We are now in a position where we can plan with greater certainty," he added.
Australian Team Chef de Mission for Tokyo Ian Chesterman said he has communicated to athletes after receiving feedback from athletes from more than 25 sports last week.
"It's clear the Games can't be held in July. Our athletes have been magnificent in their positive attitude to training and preparing, but the stress and uncertainty has been extremely challenging for them.
"They have also shouldered the burden of concern for their peers around the world. That has been a consistent message to me.
"While there will still be much to work out as a result of this change, the timing will allow athletes from around the world to properly prepare with the hope the coronavirus crisis will be under control," he added.
Australia will miss the summer Olympics for the first time if the opening ceremony is somehow staged on July 24.
Canada has already announced that they will not send their athletes to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games due to the COVID-19 which has claimed over 14,000 lives across the world.
In a statement, the Canadian Olympic Committee said on Sunday night it will not send teams to Tokyo unless the Games, which are scheduled to be held from July 24 to August 9, are postponed by a year.