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Coronavirus: Olympic champ says Canada was right to pull out of Tokyo if Games not delayed

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus outbreak: Canada won’t send team to Olympics unless it’s postponed 1 year' Coronavirus outbreak: Canada won’t send team to Olympics unless it’s postponed 1 year
WATCH: The Canadian Olympic Committee announced on Sunday it would not send a team to the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games unless the international body overseeing the event postpones it for 12 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Canada became the latest in a chorus of voices calling for the Games to be postponed – Mar 22, 2020

Rosie MacLennan, a two-time Olympic champion and Canada’s flag bearer at the 2016 Rio Games, says Canada’s decision to pull out of the Tokyo Olympics if they’re not postponed in light of the worsening COVID-19 pandemic was the right call.

She also said that she, other athletes, and the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) were “disappointed” by the announcement from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) released Sunday, saying a decision on whether the Games would be delayed wouldn’t come for another month.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Canadian IOC member expects 2020 Olympics will be postponed

“The concern is real,” MacLennan said in an interview with Global News.

“When the communique [from the IOC] came out we were all disappointed in what it said.
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“We were all really grateful that cancellation wasn’t on the table, but we were disappointed that it was meaning another four weeks of uncertainty.”

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Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau says COC made the right decision about Tokyo Olympics – Mar 23, 2020

On Sunday, after a week of mounting pressure from athletes and sport organizations around the world, the IOC and its president, Thomas Bach, set a mid-April deadline for deciding whether the Tokyo Olympics will be postponed.

This was the first time the IOC admitted that the Games could be delayed or affected in any meaningful way since the new coronavirus outbreak began.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Canada refuses to send athletes to Tokyo Olympics unless Games postponed

Bach said the Games, which are scheduled to run from July 24 to Aug. 9, would not be cancelled and that the IOC is considering other possible scenarios to ensure the events proceed.

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The IOC did not provide any specific details of what these scenarios could include or a possible timeframe for how long the Olympics could be delayed.

Canada ‘took a stand’

On Monday, Canadian IOC member Dick Pound said the IOC has made the decision to delay the Games and needs time to work out all the details. He said the organization recognizes there will be consequences of delaying the Olympics but has decided to postpone as the new coronavirus virus continues to spread.

“IOC has pulled the trigger on this. There’s going to be a postponement,” Pound said. “But they want to be able to put together all of these very, very complicated elements of a postponement.”

READ MORE: IOC position on Tokyo Olympics draws mixed reaction from Canadian athletes

The IOC would not confirm if the Games will be delayed and the COC says it has not received an official notice of postponement.

Still, even before the IOC made its announcement Sunday, Canadian Olympic officials — behind the scenes — were thinking of ways to push for a quicker decision on whether the Games would be postponed.

According to MacLennan, vice-chair of Canada’s athlete commission, the COC considered releasing a letter Saturday encouraging Bach and the IOC to accelerate its decision-making process.

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Coronavirus outbreak: Plane leaves to collect Olympic flame as IOC signals summer Games still on – Mar 18, 2020

So when the announcement from the IOC came Sunday with no firm commitment, the conversation quickly shifted from one of wanting a faster decision on whether the Games would be delayed, to one of realizing that Canada would need to take a much stronger stance urging that they should be postponed or else Canadian athletes would not participate.

“Now is not the time to be prioritizing high-performance sport. Now is the time to be focusing on the health and well-being of our families, our community and in our country,” MacLennan said.

Ultimately, MacLennan said, Sunday’s decision from the COC not to send Canadian athletes to the Olympics if they aren’t postponed was about putting the health and safety of everyone and their families first.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Olympic champion blasts IOC for putting athletes ‘in danger’

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She also said postponing the Games will give athletes the opportunity to properly prepare to give spectators and fans the show they expect when watching the Olympics.

“It’s definitely not an easy decision, but I think it’s the right decision,” she said.

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