IOC and Japan deny Tokyo 2020 Olympics set to be called off again

By Sports Desk January 22, 2021

Olympic chiefs have been joined by the Japanese government in denying a report that the Tokyo Games is poised to be called off for a second time.

The delayed Tokyo 2020 event is due to officially open on July 23 and close on August 8, having been put back by a year because of the COVID-19 health crisis.

However, with the pandemic still causing devastation in countries across the globe, there have been concerns that staging an Olympics in 2021 may be impractical.

British newspaper The Times quoted an unnamed senior Japanese government source as saying: "No one wants to be the first to say so but the consensus is that it’s too difficult. Personally, I don't think it's going to happen."

That is a perspective that is hotly disputed, with International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach telling Kyodo News: "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."

Japan has strict border controls in place in an attempt to prevent travellers spreading coronavirus and bringing new strands of the virus into the country.

The IOC executive board is due to meet on January 27, when it is set to receive updates from the Tokyo organising committee.

A recent poll of Japanese public, conducted by broadcaster NHK, found there was widespread opposition to the Olympics going ahead this year.

The Times said Tokyo would look to host the 2032 Olympic Games.

Yet Australian John Coates, an IOC vice-president and chair of the Tokyo Coordination Commission, says the plan remains for the Games to be held in its current slot.

"There has been no discussion on cancellation," Mr Coates told The Ticket, an ABC radio show.

"At the end of the day, politicians do have to take into account the feelings of those inside their party and the general public.

"But this is not the message we are getting from Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga or the president of the Tokyo Organising Committee Yoshiro Mori, himself a former Prime Minister."

In Japan, deputy chief cabinet secretary Manabu Sakai told media that the prospect of a Games cancellation was not under consideration.

He said: "There is no such fact. I would like to deny it. The government is working as one to prepare for the success of the event this summer."

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  • Plaudits pour in for Thompson-Herah on Athlete of the Year award. "We expected it!" says Jamaica's sports minister Plaudits pour in for Thompson-Herah on Athlete of the Year award. "We expected it!" says Jamaica's sports minister

    Plaudits have come in from Jamaica's sports minister and the Jamaica Olympic Association for Olympic champion Elaine Thompson who was named World Athletics Female Athlete of the Year earlier today in Monaco.

    Olivia Grange,  Jamaica’s Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, said it did not come as a surprise that Elaine Thompson-Herah would have won the prestigious award.

     

    The 29-year-old Jamaican, who successfully defended both 100m and 200m titles she first won at Rio 2016 came out on top of a quality field of candidates that included the USA’s Sydney McLaughlin, Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon, Netherlands’ Sifan Hassan and Venezuala’s Yulimar Rojas, to win her first AOY award.

    “We expected it,” Minister Grange said in a statement.

    “This nation is so happy for Elaine and proud of her for winning the top award for women in track and field for 2021. But she put her hands up with her performances in the Olympics and World Games. In fact, she has enjoyed one of the finest sprint seasons in history, retaining her 100m and 200m titles in 10.61 seconds and 21.53 seconds in Tokyo as well as adding another gold medal to her collection in the 4x100m relay, which she and her colleagues won in a national record time of 41.02 seconds.

    “Elaine did not just stop there; in her first race after the Olympics, she won the 100m in a world-leading time of 10.54 seconds which makes her second on the all-time list for the 100m and 200m.”

    The minister said Thompson-Herah joins two other Jamaican greats to have won the prestigious award from the sports’ world-governing body.

    “ It is so great, Elaine now makes it a trio of Female Athletes of the Year for Jamaica; following in the footsteps of Merlene Ottey and Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce,” Minister Grange said.

    “We salute Elaine Thompson-Herah. She is just awesome!” 

     JOA President Christopher Samuda described the accomplishment as a reward for her outstanding year.

    "The Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) congratulates our Olympian, Elaine Thompson-Herah, for being selected Female Athlete of the Year by World Athletics," Samuda said in a statement.
    "It is indeed an admirable accomplishment, the reward for exemplary performances and a testimony to her valour in transforming the challenges of a year bedevilled with the
    pandemic into inspiring feats.

    "The Jamaica Olympic Association salutes her and exhorts her to continue to be driven in her athletic pilgrimage of excellence." 

    Meanwhile, Thompson-Herah said winning the coveted award was the best way to end her historic season. Posting on her social media pages, the fastest woman alive said, “Way to cap off a magnificent historic season with my first world Athletics athlete of the year award.

    “I am just amazed with how the Lord piloted me throughout this year.”

    She expressed gratitude to her supporters and sponsors who were behind her on the historic journey.”

    “Thanks to all my sponsors @ncbjamaica @flowjamaica and @nike for your continued support. Thanks to all my longstanding supporters family, friends and fans always with me through the ups and downs love you all.”

     

  • 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.

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