The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) said on Monday it could not assemble a team for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics due to the coronavirus outbreak and that its athletes should prepare for the Games to be postponed to 2021.
AOC Chief Executive Matt Carroll said the AOC's executive board had made its decision without waiting for advice from the International Olympic Committee due to changing circumstances with the pandemic in recent days.
Carroll's comments came after Canada announced it would not send its team to the Olympics and Paralympics in the summer of 2020.
"We've had to make a call now because of the situation here in Australia and other parts of the world," Carroll told reporters in Sydney on Monday.
"But the IOC is still working through their final decision-making."
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said for the first time on Monday that the Tokyo Olympic Games may need to be postponed if the event cannot be held in its "complete form" due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The IOC said on Sunday after an emergency meeting that it is stepping up its 'scenario planning' for the 2020 Games due to start on July 24, including a possible postponement.
Carroll said Australia's decision would give its athletes 'certainty' and pushed for the Games to be held off until 2021.
"... 2021, it's 12 months, it has to be a summer Games, it's an appropriate amount of time but again that's a decision for the International Olympic Committee."
The AOC said in a statement earlier on Monday that it's decision reflected the IOC's "key principles of putting athlete health first and ensuring it acted in their best interests and the interests of sport".
Opposition to holding the Games in July has risen sharply in the past 48 hours, with several major stakeholders such as U.S. Track and Field and UK Athletics, along with several national Olympic committees, calling for a delay because of the pandemic.
More than 13,000 people have died globally since the coronavirus outbreak began.