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Aussie Athletes Told To Prepare For Tokyo Games In 2021

Australia's athletes are being told to prepare for an Olympics in 2021, with fears the July Tokyo Games will be postponed.

"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," said Australian Team Chef de Mission for Tokyo, Ian Chesterman.

For the first time in history, the Olympic Games may be postponed due to coronavirus outbreak. It would be the first time the Games have been interrupted for a reason other than a world war.

The Tokyo Olympic Games were set to begin on July 24, but the International Olympic Committee has met to investigate options for moving the Games, and now Australia has flagged it likely won't send a team to Tokyo even if it goes ahead.

The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) said on earlier on Monday it was telling athletes to prepare for the Games to be postponed, potentially for an entire year to mid-2021, after agreeing that "Australian Team could not be assembled in the changing circumstances".

"The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) says Australian athletes should prepare for a Tokyo Olympic Games in the northern summer of 2021, following the IOC’s announcement of a potential postponement of this year’s Games and changes in public health landscape in Australia and across the globe," it said in a statement.

"The AOC believes our athletes now need to prioritise their own health and of those around them, and to be able to return to the families, in discussion with their National Federations.

"The AOC held an Executive Board meeting via teleconference this morning and unanimously agreed that an Australian Team could not be assembled in the changing circumstances at home and abroad."

On Monday afternoon, AOC CEO Matt Carroll said the athletes had been consulted in the decision-making and wanted to protect the health of not just themselves, but of other athletes as well.

"The athletes desperately want to go to the Games, desperately want to represent their country at the Olympics," he told reporters.

"We have to look after, not just our athletes and officials, but also their families who were feeling concerned for their sons and their daughters."

AOC CEO Matt Carroll gives an update on the Tokyo Olympics. Image: 10 News First

Chesterman said postponing the Games would raise challenges around qualification and schedule of other sports competitions, but said they could be overcome.

“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," he said.

The Matildas football team was one of those headed to Tokyo.Image: AAP

Chesterman wrote a letter to athletes, obtained  by 10 daily,  in which he said holding the Games in July was "still a theoretical option" but that the coronavirus outbreak had made it "clear to the AOC that a Games will not be held in 2020 but in the northern hemisphere summer of 2021."

"More will evolve in the coming days and weeks and we will keep you up to date. But for now, talk to your sport, get some new plans in place, stay safe and look after yourself and those around you. I will be in touch again soon," the letter concluded.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Monday that postponing the Tokyo Olympics may become an option if holding the event in its "complete form" became impossible.

Abe said the IOC decision was in line with the view that the 2020 Games, scheduled to start on July 24, should be held in its complete form.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Image: AAP

"If that becomes difficult, we may have no option but to consider postponing the Games" given the Olympics' principle of putting the health of athletes first, he told parliament.

Abe said cancelling the Games was not an option.

The Games have only been cancelled three times previously -- in 1916, due to World War I, while World War II forced it to be scrapped in 1940 and 1944 -- but this would be the first time they have been postponed from the original date.

In 1936, Tokyo was originally awarded the 1940 Games, but withdrew two years later because of Japan's involvement in the Second Sino-Japanese War.

The Games were then rescheduled for Helsinki in Finland, until they were ultimately abandoned because of World War II.

Coronavirus fears have impacted the 2020 Olympic Games. Image: Getty

In February, Yoshiro Mori, president of the Tokyo 2020 organising committee, maintained "we are not considering a cancellation or postponement of the Games".

However, by March, Japanese authorities had suggested in March the Games could be moved to another point in 2020, to allow time for coronavirus fears to be addressed.