Australia still planning for Olympics amid reports Tokyo Games could be cancelled

By Sports Desk January 21, 2021

The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) said it is continuing to plan for the Olympic Games, despite reports the rescheduled showpiece event in Tokyo could be cancelled amid the coronavirus pandemic.

COVID-19 forced the 2020 Games to be postponed, with the Olympics now due to held in Tokyo from July 23 to August 8 this year.

But with coronavirus continuing to wreak havoc globally, there are reports claiming Japan has privately concluded the Olympic Games will have to be called off.

The AOC responded to the reports in a statement on Friday, which read: "Both Japanese prime minister Suga and IOC president Bach have this week strongly reaffirmed their commitment to the Tokyo Olympic Games going ahead in July this year. 

"The AOC is continuing its planning to ensuring the Australian Olympic Team arrives in Tokyo, competes and returns home safe and COVID-free.

"The AOC, Federal Government, Queensland Government and Brisbane City Council are continuing to progress the candidature for the Olympic Games to be held in Queensland in 2032 – and that process continues."

International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach also insisted the Games will take place this year, despite surging COVID-19 cases in Tokyo.

Amid growing doubts, Bach told Kyodo News on Thursday: "We have at this moment, no reason whatsoever to believe that the Olympic Games in Tokyo will not open on the 23rd of July in the Olympic stadium in Tokyo.

"This is why there is no plan B and this is why we are fully committed to make these Games safe and successful."

"You may not like it but sacrifices will be needed. This is why I'm saying, safety first, and no taboo in the discussion to ensure safety," added Bach after hinting at the possibility of reduced spectators.

Bach said: First of all, let me be clear that you cannot compare March 2021 with March 2020 because there is such great progress in science, medicine, vaccination and [virus] tests.

"All this was not available in March last year. Nobody knew yet how really to deal with the pandemic, and now we know much more."

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  • Thompson-Herah and Warholm named World Athletes of the Year Thompson-Herah and Warholm named World Athletes of the Year

    Olympic champions Elaine Thompson-Herah of Jamaica and Karsten Warholm of Norway have been named the World Athletes of the Year at the World Athletics Awards 2021, a ceremony held virtually on Wednesday.

    Thompson-Herah produced one of the finest sprint seasons in history this year, retaining her Olympic 100m and 200m titles in Tokyo and adding a third gold medal in the 4x100m relay. On top of her Olympic triple, she also clocked world-leading times of 10.54 and 21.53 over 100m and 200m respectively, moving to second on the world all-time lists and coming within touching distance of the long-standing world records.

    “I just take it year by year,” said Thompson-Herah. “I went very close to the world record so you know, anything is possible. No spikes hanging up any time soon!
    “The World Championships in Oregon is most definitely my next big target,” she added. “It is close to home, I hope friends and family can come out and watch. I hope I get some crowd as well. That couldn’t happen in Tokyo but hopefully, in Eugene,I can get my friends and family to come and cheer me on.”

    Warholm uncorked one of the most remarkable performances in athletics history when he stormed to gold in the 400m hurdles at the Tokyo Olympics. Having already broken the world record with 46.70 in Oslo in the lead-up to the Games, Warholm exceeded all expectations in the Japanese capital to claim gold in a stunning world record of 45.94. In a race of incredible depth, the top three athletes finished inside the pre-2021 world record.

    “I’m so happy for this,” said Warholm. “First when I saw the time (in Tokyo), I was like, ‘This must be a mistake!’ Because I didn’t see that one coming. And I didn’t see the victory coming before crossing the finish line.

    “It was a very intense race, I knew the American and the Brazilian and all the other guys were really chasing me. I always go out hard and I never know what is going on behind me. I was just fighting all the way to the finish line. When I realised 45.94 was the reality, I was thinking: ‘This is not too bad. I’ll take it!’"

    World Athletics President Sebastian Coe congratulated all of tonight’s winners and finalists on their extraordinary achievements this year.
    "We have this year celebrated some jaw-dropping performances in Tokyo, at the World Athletics U20 Championships in Nairobi and through our one-day meeting circuits – the Wanda Diamond League and the Continental Tour. So we’re delighted to recognise some of our stars at tonight’s awards.

    "As a sport, we are in an incredibly strong position. 2021 has been an excellent year. We cemented our position as the number 1 Olympic sport coming out of Tokyo, we have the most God-given talented athletes on the planet and our sport is the most accessible of all sports. Thank you to all our athletes around the world. I am looking forward to watching what you can all do in 2022."


    The other award winners were:

    Female Rising Star
    Athing Mu
    The US teenager was undefeated at 800m all year, winning Olympic gold at the distance following a long but successful collegiate season. She broke the senior US 800m record with her triumph in Tokyo and then improved it to 1:55.04 just a few weeks later. She also excelled at 400m, clocking a North American U20 record of 49.57 for the distance.
    “It means the world to know that my support goes beyond friends and families and extends worldwide,” said Mu. “This award shows all young girls that your dreams can, indeed, come true."

    Male Rising Star
    Erriyon Knighton
    Throughout 2021 the 17-year-old took down several marks that had belonged to sprint legend Usain Bolt. Knighton first set world U18 bests of 20.11 and 20.04 over 200m, but his rapid rise continued and he broke Bolt’s world U20 record for the distance with 19.88 and 19.84. He went on to finish fourth in the Olympic final with 19.93.
    “I’m really thankful for this award,” said Knighton. “One of my most memorable moments of this year was making it to the Olympic final in Tokyo and finishing fourth at the age of 17.”

    Member Federations Award
    Federacion Costarricense de Atletismo (Costa Rica)
    In recognition for their outstanding training, competition and development programme roll-out over the past 12 months, for their consultative work on the World Athletics Kids’ Athletics programme, and for successfully staging a host of international events over the past year.

    Inspiration Award
    Mutaz Barshim and Gianmarco Tamberi
    The shared high jump victory between Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim and Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi became one of the biggest talking points of the Olympic Games – not only for everything it represented in their own individual careers, having both battled serious injuries since the last Games, but mainly for the act of respect and sportsmanship between two friends.
    “It is just crazy if I think about this story,” said Tamberi. “Thank you very much for this trophy.
    “I now call Mutaz like five times a week because I need to speak with him. I feel that now we are not just friends, we are really like blood brothers.”
    Barshim added: “I hope to inspire more people to love our sport and maybe share a gold one day!”

    President’s Award
    Peter Diamond, Executive Vice President of NBC Olympic programming
    “Athletics owes Peter a massive debt of gratitude,” said World Athletics President Sebastian Coe. “Peter has worked alongside us for effectively 40 years and has been a constant source of great advice and wise counsel, and occasional humour that has softened the edges of any particular situation. And he has made athletics a lot better.”

    Coaching Achievement Award
    Bobby Kersee
    The US coach has guided the careers of many legendary athletes over the years, but this year two of his charges made history. Allyson Felix became the most decorated female track and field Olympian in history after winning her 10th and 11th Olympic gold medals in Tokyo, while training partner Sydney McLaughlin broke two world records in the 400m hurdles and claimed Olympic gold in the discipline.

    Woman of the Year Award
    Anju Bobby George
    The former international long jump star from India is still actively involved in the sport. In 2016 she opened a training academy for young girls, which has already helped to produce a world U20 medallist. A constant voice for gender equality in her role as Senior Vice President of the Indian Athletics Federation, Bobby George also mentors schoolgirls for future leadership positions within the sport.

    Jean-Pierre Durand World Athletics Photograph of the Year
    Ryan Pierse’s photograph of the women’s high jump qualifying at the Tokyo Olympic Games

     

    This year’s award is dedicated to the memory of Jean-Pierre Durand, one of the sport’s most prolific photographers and photo chief for a number of World Athletics Series events, who died in October.
    “This winning image was taken on one of the morning sessions in Tokyo and it was a hot one,” said Pierse, who is from Australia. “I wanted to illustrate the heat and how it was affecting the athletes. It is a picture that I worked on for a while, and it all came together. I am really happy with it.
    “I think it’s incredibly fitting that this award is named in memory of Jean-Pierre Durand,” added Pierse. “I had the pleasure of working alongside him, most recently at the Tokyo Olympics.”

    ________________________________________

  • Bayern Munich set to play home games behind closed doors Bayern Munich set to play home games behind closed doors

    Bayern Munich are set to play home matches behind closed doors "for the foreseeable future" due to rising coronavirus infection rates.

    Two cases of the new Omicron coronavirus variant were detected in Bavaria at the weekend.

    As of Monday, the seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases in the southern German state stood at 12,304.

    Government officials are scheduled to meet on Thursday to decide on new restrictions for the country in an attempt to halt the spread of the respiratory illness.

    The state of Saxony has already stopped supporters from attending matches and Bavaria will now do likewise, regardless of the outcome of Thursday's meeting.

    Speaking on Tuesday, Bavaria's Prime Minister Markus Soder told state broadcaster BR: "When Christmas markets are closed, it is not appropriate to have full stadiums."

    "It makes no sense for the foreseeable future to admit viewers again. It is an important demand that we decide today that we will no longer allow viewers in the future. 

    "If that doesn't work at the federal level, we would do it for Bavaria alone."

    Soder later used Twitter to justify his comments, posting: "The high mobility when travelling to and from the club is currently irresponsible. 

    "Football is a great role model. We now have to reduce contacts everywhere."

    No timeline was set by Soder, but Bayern do not play at the Allianz Arena again until Barcelona visit in the final round of Champions League matches on December 8.

    The Bundesliga champions then host Mainz in the league three days later and Wolfsburg on December 17 in their final game before the mid-season hiatus.

    Fellow Bavarian Bundesliga sides Augsburg and Greuther Furth would also be affected by the measures.

  • Portugal's national health institute reports 13 cases of Omicron variant at Belenenses SAD Portugal's national health institute reports 13 cases of Omicron variant at Belenenses SAD

    Portugal's national health institute, INSA, has reported 13 cases of the new Omicron variant of COVID-19 at Belenenses SAD.

    B-SAD were forced to face Benfica on Saturday with just nine players - including two goalkeepers - after positive tests for 13 members of the squad.

    Benfica went into half-time 7-0 up and B-SAD were forced to forfeit shortly after the restart due to insufficient players as injuries reduced the hosts - who were without any substitutes - to six men.

    Among the B-SAD players to miss out was Cafu Phete, who had recently spent time in South Africa - where the Omicron variant was first detected - and it now appears that he and the other 12 members of the squad have tested positive for this new strain of coronavirus. 

    "Preliminary tests carried out at INSA strongly suggest that all 13 cases associated with players of Belenenses SAD are linked to the variant of concern Omicron," INSA's statement to Publico read.

    "The predictive value of the tests carried out is already very high."

    Benfica's players are set to be tested as Portuguese authorities respond to the Omicron variant being found inside the country's borders.

    "We'll have more proactive isolation and a more intensive testing of contacts," Graca Freitas - Portugal's Director-General for Health - told TSF. 

    Flights into Portugal from Mozambique have now been banned, while two positive cases were discovered among the 218 people to have arrived on the last such flight on Saturday.

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