Australian athletes, including more than 20 from the Hunter region, are poised to put their Olympic and Paralympic dreams on hold for 2020 as Games officials explore postponing the Tokyo event amid the global coronavirus pandemic.
In another extraordinary 24 hours following the spread of COVID-19 around the world, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) backflipped from its original stance before the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) admitted on Monday that assembling a team for July 24 was an "untenable situation".
With tighter government restrictions and border closures on the domestic front, the AOC have told athletes they "should prepare for a Tokyo Olympic Games in the northern summer of 2021".
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"We have athletes based overseas, training at central locations around Australia as teams and managing their own programs," AOC chief executive Matt Carroll said in a statement.
"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."
AOC Chef de Mission Ian Chesterman added: "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.
"We are aware that for many such a postponement will present a range of new issues. But when the world does come together at the Tokyo Olympic Games they can be a true celebration of sport and humanity."
Australia's move comes as Canada announced it would not send a team if the Games went ahead as scheduled.
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Tokyo's Olympics appear likely to be postponed with the IOC shifting its language on the sporting showpiece.
The IOC had previously remained steadfast in forging ahead with the Games but after a weekend meeting canvassed a possible delay.
The IOC has accelerated its scenario planning, with a decision to be made within the next four weeks, but added cancellation now wasn't on the agenda.
This stance was backed by Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who said a postponement was an option if holding the event in its "complete form" became impossible.
"If that becomes difficult, we may have no option but to consider postponing the Games," Abe told Japan's parliament on Monday.
A strong Hunter contingent has been forming for this year's Games.
Lake Macquaire sailors Will and Jaime Ryan already booked tickets to Tokyo along with adopted Novocastrian surfer Julian Wilson while Cessnock shooter Dan Repacholi, who won a nomination event in Sydney on Saturday, was set to be officially named for a fifth Olympics later this month.
Emily van Egmond (Matildas), Katie Ebzery, Leilani Mitchell (Opals), Richie Campbell, Nathan Power (Sharks), Matt Dawson (Kookaburras) and Mariah Williams (Hockeyroos) are all part of national squads to qualify for the Games. NBA star Ben Simmons may have lined up for the Boomers.
Swimmer Thomas Fraser-Holmes, triathlete Aaron Royle, rower Spencer Turrin, equestrian Hazel Shannon, diver Sam Fricker, trampolinist Ty Swadling and skateboarder Poppy Olsen are Olympic hopefuls.
Sailing siblings Nathan and Haylee Outerridge have appealed non-selection.
Lauren Parker, Christie Dawes, Rheed McCracken and Luke Bailey are aspiring to make the Paralympics.
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