OKC Thunder: Canada’s withdrawal likely catalyst to postpone Toyko Olympics

OKC Thunder - Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will have to wait to represent his country: Oshae Brissett looks on during a Canada national basketball match (Photo by Will Russell/Getty Images)
OKC Thunder - Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will have to wait to represent his country: Oshae Brissett looks on during a Canada national basketball match (Photo by Will Russell/Getty Images) /

OKC Thunder star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander committed to play for his country but the Canadian Olympic Committee’s formal withdrawal may have forced postponement of Tokyo 2020.

Fans hoping to see OKC Thunder players Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and possibly Luguentz Dort competing in the Olympics won’t get that opportunity — at least not this year.

Nor will Jamal Murray, Brandon Clarke, RJ Barrett or Dillon Brooks be walking into the Toyko Olympic stadium this July (or August, or September).

And that’s just the notables of the Men’s Canadian Basketball team who for what it’s worth still have to win a wild card seed. Those berths are to be decided via four separate FIBA wild card tournaments which have also been postponed.

That’s because the Canadian Olympic Committee has formally elected not to participate this summer should the IOC decide to proceed. Per a press release via Josh Su of the Canadian Olympic Committee:

"The COC and CPC urgently call on the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to postpone the Games for one year and we offer them our full support in helping navigate all the complexities that rescheduling the Games will bring. While we recognize the inherent complexities around a postponement, nothing is more important than the health and safety of our athletes and the world community."

Shortly after Canada pulled the plug, Australia joined the party and also stated their athletes won’t be in Toyko either.

This news came on the heels of the International Olympic Committee announcing they’ll make a decision on whether the Toyko Games will proceed (or be delayed) within the next four weeks. The IOC posted a press release on the situation:

"The IOC will, in full coordination and partnership with the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, the Japanese authorities and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, start detailed discussions to complete its assessment of the rapid development of the worldwide health situation and its impact on the Olympic Games, including the scenario of postponement. The IOC is confident that it will have finalised these discussions within the next four weeks, and greatly appreciates the solidarity and partnership of the NOCs and IFs in supporting the athletes and adapting Games planning.The IOC EB emphasised that a cancellation of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 would not solve any of the problems or help anybody. Therefore, cancellation is not on the agenda."

For those hoping the games run either as scheduled or via a brief postponement, the one certainty is neither Canadian or Australian athletes will be participating unless the games are moved to next summer.

As of yet, the US Men’s basketball group hasn’t backed off their involvement but as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to delay the return of the NBA season/playoffs their withdrawal wouldn’t be surprising. The key is unlike formalized major league sports, athletes in the Olympics prepare and perform once every four years. They build their career path to peak every four seasons.

All events which are team focused are already suffering since COVID-19 has shut down the possibility of holding practices and the use of typical facilities. This creates uneven playing fields as some countries who’ve cleared the worst of the virus can prepare while North America and most of Europe are in self-quarantine scenarios.

To that end, as of this morning, additional countries have followed Canada’s lead. A BBC article noted:

"The head of World Athletics, Sebastian Coe, wrote to Mr Bach on Sunday to say holding the games in July was “neither feasible nor desirable”. On Monday, Australia told its athletes to prepare for an Olympics and Paralympics in the northern summer of 2021, while Germany’s Olympic Committee has called for a postponement."

Norwegian and Spanish Olympic authorities were also cited in the article as not being on board for games this summer.

The U.S.A. hasn’t made a formal statement yet, however, both their Swimming program and Track and Field programs have requested a postponement.

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Presumably, this adds pressure to the IOC to delay the games until next summer. Several athletes have voiced concern over how the IOC has handled this situation.

In particular, the IOC’s stance that athletes should continue training is disconcerting. High profile Olympic medalist Michael Johnson pointed out the obvious — that athletes are putting themselves at risk just to train.

The glaring issue with this seeming status quo position is the IOC stance goes against everything Government and Medical experts are suggesting – which is safe-distancing and for many self-quarantine.

As this post was about to be published news from Canadian IOC member Dick Pound via Christine Brennan of USA Today stated he believes the Olympics will be postponed until next summer (2021).

Moving forward, even if the IOC were to postpone the Toyko games for a year there is still so much uncertainty on whether NBA players would be able to attend. That’s because there is still so much uncertainty on when this season will (or if it will) resume.

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Current expectations are for a mid to late June return. Yet, even under those circumstances how long it takes to complete the playoffs and how it affects the 2020-21 NBA schedule will also factor and would play a role in whether NBA players would even be available to participate.