Despite assurances that the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo would go ahead, Canada’s withdrawal – and rhetoric from other nations – is putting the competition’s future in doubt.

Canada’s announcement came shortly after a change in tone from Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, who said for the first time that the Games, set to start on 24 July, could be postponed.

Meanwhile, the Australian team has told its athletes to prepare for a 2021 games, as it was ‘clear’ the competition could not go ahead in 2020.

Canada’s Olympic and Paralympic committee said it had taken “the difficult decision” to withdraw after consulting athletes, sports groups, and the Canadian government.

It then “urgently called” on the International Olympic Committee, International Paralympic Committee, and World Health Organization, to postpone the games for a year.

“While we recognise the inherent complexities around a postponement, nothing is more important than the health and safety of our athletes and the world community,” its statement said.