Canada, Australia pull out of 2020 Tokyo Olympics

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Athletes and sports bodies have become increasingly vocal after restrictions imposed because of coronavirus trashed competition schedules and often made training for the Olympics impossible — and risky. (AFP)
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Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike arrives to hold a press conference about COVID-19 at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government office. (AFP)
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Updated 23 March 2020

Canada, Australia pull out of 2020 Tokyo Olympics

  • ‘Human lives take precedence over everything, including the staging of the Games’
  • Canada highlighted the dangers to the broader community as they became the first team to withdraw from the Olympics and Paralympics

TOKYO: Canada pulled out of the Tokyo Olympics over coronavirus fears as Japan’s prime minister Monday admitted a delay may be “inevitable” and the International Olympic Committee said a decision should come within weeks.

The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) also said 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.

Japanese and Olympic officials had stuck resolutely to the line that the Summer Games will go ahead on time, but criticism from athletes and sports bodies has swelled to a crescendo in recent days.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told parliament that Japan was still committed to a “complete” Games, but added: “If that becomes difficult, in light of considering athletes first, it may become inevitable that we make a decision to postpone.”

It was the second major concession in a matter of hours after the IOC said “the scenario of postponement” was one of the options under consideration, with a final decision due within four weeks.

“Human lives take precedence over everything, including the staging of the Games,” IOC president Thomas Bach wrote in an open letter to athletes after emergency talks.

“Cancellation would not solve any problem and would help nobody,” Bach added. “Therefore it is not on our agenda.”

Athletes and sports bodies have become increasingly vocal after restrictions imposed because of COVID-19 trashed competition schedules and often made training impossible — and risky.

Canada highlighted the dangers to the broader community as they became the first team to withdraw from the Olympics and Paralympics, urging a year’s postponement.

“This is not solely about athlete health — it is about public health,” the Canadian Olympic Committee said.

“With COVID-19 and the associated risks, it is not safe for our athletes, and the health and safety of their families and the broader Canadian community for athletes to continue training toward these Games.”

Canada’s pull-out came despite the IOC promising to hold “detailed discussions” on the “worldwide health situation and its impact on the Olympic Games, including the scenario of postponement,” with a decision expected “within the next four weeks.”

AOC Chief Executive Matt Carroll said the AOC’s executive board had made its decision without waiting for advice from the IOC due to changing circumstances with the pandemic in recent days.

“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.”


Mercedes F1 team helps to develop breathing aid in pandemic

Updated 30 March 2020

Mercedes F1 team helps to develop breathing aid in pandemic

  • New breathing aid similar to those used in Italy, China to fight coronavirus symptoms
  • Lack of ventilators a major concern as coronavirus cases increase

LONDON: Formula One team Mercedes has helped to develop a breathing aid that could keep coronavirus patients out of intensive care and ease some pressure on Britain’s strained health service.
As part of a combined effort involving seven Britain-based teams, Mercedes worked with engineers at the University College London and clinicians at University College London Hospital to adapt and improve a device that bridges the gap between an oxygen mask and the need for full ventilation.
The device, known as continuous positive airway pressure, has been used extensively in hospitals in Italy and China to deliver oxygen to the lungs of coronavirus patients during the pandemic.
UCL said the adapted devices have been recommended for use in Britain and that 100 of them are being sent to its hospital for clinical trials. There is the potential for quick roll-out by Mercedes to hospitals across the country.
Tim Baker, a professor from UCL’s department of mechanical engineering, said clinicians called on the “capability of Formula One” to reduce a process “that could take years down to a matter of days,” with the adapted device taking less than 100 hours to develop from an initial meeting.
“We have been proud to put our resources at the service of UCL,” said Andy Cowell, managing director of Mercedes, “to deliver the CPAP project to the highest standards and in the fastest possible time frame.”
The technology arms of six other teams — Red Bull, Haas, McLaren, Renault, Williams and Racing Point — contributed to the developing of the CPAP devices, as part of what F1 has labeled “Project Pitlane.”
The teams say they will continue to pool their resources and “support in other areas requiring rapid, innovative technology responses to the unique challenges posed” by the pandemic.
The CPAP machines work by pushing a mix of oxygen and air into the mouth and nose at a continuous rate, helping to increase the amount of oxygen entering the lungs. They are used routinely by Britain’s National Health Service but are in short supply currently.
There have been almost 20,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Britain, with more than 1,200 deaths.
For most people, the new virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
The F1 season has yet to start, with the first eight races of the schedule having been postponed or canceled. It means there will be no racing until the middle of June at the earliest.
Mercedes is the leading team in F1, with defending champion Lewis Hamilton as its top driver.