SYDNEY — Australia’s Olympic baseball team has given up trying to qualify for the Tokyo Games because of coronavirus-related travel complications.
Baseball Australia’s chief executive Glenn Williams on Wednesday said the “gut-wrenching” decision to withdraw makes Olympic qualification impossible. The final qualifying tournament on June 22-26 was initially due to be hosted by Taiwan but late last month it was moved to Puebla, Mexico.
“Attending the final Olympic qualifier in a COVID world was always going to present significant challenges,” Williams said. “The planning for Taiwan was extensive and with the late change in location and dates, those plans became obsolete.
“We worked through multiple options and scenarios but the logistical challenges of providing a safe environment for the group were insurmountable.”
Williams said even if Australia attended and won the qualifying event, subsequent quarantine requirements made it impossible to compete at the Tokyo Games starting on July 23.
“Athlete health and safety was always of paramount importance,” he said. “And there were simply too many unanswered questions presenting significant risks. The complexity of moving such a large group, through two countries, with limited flight availability, presented a real risk of members of the group being stranded overseas and requiring medical treatment.”
World No. 4-ranked Taiwan last week pulled out of the Mexico qualifying tournament for the same reason. China withdrew in early May before the tournament was moved from Taiwan to Mexico.
Baseball is making its return to the Olympics after being dumped from the program for the 2012 and 2016 Games after first appearing as a full medal sport at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Australia won a silver medal at the Athens Olympics in 2004, losing to Cuba in the final.