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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks at a press conference in Ottawa on March 23, 2020.

BLAIR GABLE/Reuters

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic committees made the right decision in announcing Canadian athletes will not go to this summer’s Tokyo Olympics or Paralympics if they start on their scheduled dates.

Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, the COC said Sunday night it would hold back its athletes if the Games start as scheduled and called for a postponement until 2021.

“I know this heartbreaking for so many people – athletes, coaches, staff and fans. But this was absolutely the right call and everyone should follow their lead,” Trudeau said Monday in Ottawa.

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Trudeau said Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is “very much aware of the challenges” with the Tokyo Games attempting to start on time.

The Summer Olympics are scheduled to start July 24 with the Paralympics slated to follow on Aug. 25.

Team Canada became the first country to pull out of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics on March 22, joining several other big names this weekend in calling for the postponement of the Games and putting increased pressure on host country Japan to act. Gloria Tso reports. Reuters

Canada’s statement joins a growing chorus of critics around the International Olympic Committee’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Australian Olympic Committee has told its athletes in a statement on its website they should prepare for the Tokyo Games in 2021.

IOC president Thomas Bach said earlier Sunday the global organization is considering options including postponement, and a decision will be made in four weeks.

Cancelling the Games entirely, Bach said, is not being considered.

The IOC and Japan’s organizing committee had consistently said the Games would go ahead as planned.

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But Abe changed his tune Sunday, saying a postponement of the Tokyo Games would be unavoidable if the games cannot be held in a complete way because of the coronavirus.

With countless cancellations, only 57 per cent of Olympic qualification spots have been determined.

Since the first modern Olympics in Athens in 1896, only World Wars have cancelled Games in 1916, 1940 and 1944.

There have been three major boycotts, in 1976 in Montreal, 1980, and 1984.

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