Open letter to Team Canada re: COVID-19

March 17, 2020
Dear Team Canada,

Earlier today, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that it remains fully committed to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. With four months to go before the Games, it will refrain from making any further decisions at this time. We support this move by the IOC—we all hope and are continuing to plan for the Olympics to proceed in July—but our hope needs to be put in context.

The current pandemic is among the most challenging health issues that we have had to confront in many generations. Lives are at risk on a global basis, and there is an unprecedented level of worry and anxiety in our communities. Sport, understandably and appropriately, ranks low in terms of these priorities and we have seen many sport leagues and circuits suspend operations during this crisis without any clear sense of when normal operations will resume.   

The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) is focusing on what is in front of us and attempting to do all that it can to flatten the infection-rate curve. We will continue to take all steps to protect the health of everyone and work to contain the spread of the virus. All of us play a critical role in mitigating the spread and transmission of the virus, as we follow the recommendations of Health Canada and the World Health Organization. COVID-19 is a constantly evolving situation and is a threat to which many countries are having to adapt. Nobody can know what the coming days, weeks and months will hold. We will do our part.

Preparation and planning for Tokyo 2020 has been adapted to protect everyone’s health and to slow the virus. This includes having all staff work from home, virtual meetings instead of face-to-face and suspension of non-essential, work-related travel. 

The IOC and sport movement have put in place several similar measures. Olympic qualifying events have been cancelled. 43% of the Olympic places have not yet been qualified and the IOC has put in place an expedited process to clarify new procedures so athletes can prepare.  The IOC’s task force consisting of the World Health Organization (WHO), the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, the Japanese authorities and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government continues to monitor the situation 24/7. Every aspect of preparation is being analyzed and adapted. This includes everything from the lighting of the Olympic torch, the Games preparation supply chain and virtual Games Coordination meetings; all to ensure people are protected and the virus slowed.

The Olympic community understands the challenges to athletes from competitions having been halted and athletes being unable to train. The anxiety that athletes are feeling about the pandemic is much like anyone else’s, and although it includes hope for the Olympic Games, it is clear that hope for containment of this virus is first and foremost.

We do not know what will happen in the next 24 hours, no less the next four months, and that is the reason there need not be a definitive decision today about any changes to the plans to hold the Olympic Games. As we progress toward July 24, we will make our decisions based on the information provided by the IOC, WHO and our health experts. The health and safety of the world community, which of course includes our athletes, will always be paramount.   

We, the sport community, the entire world, are in this together. What a celebration the Olympic Games could be for the world, a symbol of what we can achieve when we work together, caring for each other.

We are Team Canada. 


Tricia Smith, President, COC
David Shoemaker, CEO and Secretary General, COC
Marnie McBean, Team Canada’s Tokyo 2020 Chef de Mission
Seyi Smith, Chair, COC Athletes’ Commission
Rosie MacLennan, Vice-Chair, COC Athletes’ Commission

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