Officially, the International Olympic Committee insists they have a month left before they make a decision about the Tokyo Games this summer. Canada begs to differ, announcing late yesterday that time had run out on their participation. If the IOC won’t push off the games until next year, Canada will not participate at all.

It’s not just whether the pandemic spread has been arrested by then, either:

The Canadian Olympic Committee says it won’t send athletes to the Tokyo Games unless they’re postponed for a year, becoming the first country to threaten such a move in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

The committee sent out a statement Sunday evening saying it was willing to help the IOC search for alternatives, but that it was not safe for athletes, “their families and the broader Canadian community for athletes to continue training for these Games.”

“In fact, it runs counter to the public health advice which we urge all Canadians to follow.”

That obvious point has largely been missed in the debate over whether the Olympics presents a risk for everyone else. The athletes need continuity of training in order to perform at the peak of their abilities, but also to tune their physiques well enough to avoid serious injury. The last few months before competition usually feature events that allow them to hone their techniques and adjust their high-focus training regimens. With shelter-in-place advisories and even more emphatic legal mandates being imposed in more and more countries, not only are those tune-up events getting canceled, there are few options for athletes to train in any serious manner.

That’s why Canada argues that it’s already too late for the 2020 Summer Olympics. Even if the shelter-in-place policies get lifted in early April — which seems very optimistic at the moment — there won’t be sporting events being scheduled. Many of those competitions involve colleges and universities, which won’t be coming back into session any time soon even without the shelter-in-place orders. That means athletes won’t get into competitive situations until just before the Olympics, if not at the Olympics themselves. That’s a best case scenario, too, because we might be sheltering in place well past the IOC’s four-week deadline to make this decision.

Nor is Canada alone in reaching this conclusion. Australia has begun notifying its athletes that it doesn’t expect to send them to the Olympics this year, and that they should prepare for a 2021 Olympics instead:

Shortly after Bach’s statement, the Canadian Olympic Committee said it won’t send teams to the Olympics unless the games are postponed by a year. Australia issued a statement saying it was advising its athletes to prepare for an Olympics in 2021.

The Australian committee’s executive board agreed unanimously that “an Australian Team could not be assembled in the changing circumstances at home and abroad.”

The controlling authority for world track and field events also sent the IOC a letter urging them to call off the Olympics for this year. Sebastian Coe knows of what he speaks when he raises the training and preparation issue:

The president of World Athletics, which oversees international track & field, has implored the International Olympic Committee to postpone the 2020 Summer Games due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Sebastian Coe, a former Olympic track star from Great Britain, wrote in a letter to IOC president Thomas Bach that holding the games as scheduled in Tokyo in July was neither “feasible nor desirable.” CBC News of Canada obtained the two-page letter, which was dated Sunday.

“The uncertainty of the Olympic Games happening in July and the inherent desire and motivation to excel that resides in all our athletes is causing real anguish that we can, collectively, put a stop to,” Coe wrote. “I believe that time has come and we owe it to our athletes to give them respite where we can. And in this matter, I believe we can.”

The IOC will probably still drag this out another couple of weeks if no one else backs up Canada and Australia, and it might be tough to blame them for doing so. IOC member Dick Pound told USA Today that the IOC has already decided to postpone the games but wait until the end of its four-week extension to roll out a new plan.  There is a lot of money on the line, not just for the IOC but also for Tokyo and Japan, plus the continuity of the Olympic tradition to uphold. Canada probably won’t be alone on this for very long, though, and their argument makes too much sense to ignore. The Olympics will be yet another casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic, one way or the other.

Update: Japan’s PM appears to agree, too:

Donald Trump gave Abe room to make that decision on his own — kinda:

That last point sounds like a not-so-subtle hint as to what Trump sees as “the proper decision,” but Abe’s probably not far off from the same conclusion. The delay will be costly, but at least people might feel comfortable traveling next year. Don’t expect a big rush to get on planes any time soon in 2020.