Tokyo Games 100 days to go: State of play as the Olympics loom into view

By Sports Desk April 14, 2021

Only 100 days remain until the rearranged Tokyo Olympics begin, some 12 months after they were originally scheduled to take place in the Japanese capital.

The overriding question over the past year has simply been: how will this happen?

Uncertainty still lingers over the monumental logistical effort needed to reschedule an Olympics, one that did not take place as planned for the first time since World War II as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Over a year since it was first confirmed the Games would be put back, the global health crisis is still wreaking havoc as countries battle COVID-19 with varying levels of success.

For the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Japanese government, a more pertinent question may be: how could the Games not go ahead?

Soon, more than 11,000 athletes plus their coaches, as well as throngs of media and officials from around 200 nations, will flock into a single city during a pandemic.

As the Games come into view and the ceremonial lighting of the Olympic cauldron draws closer, the message has been pretty clear – one way or another, the show will go on.

So, just where are we at and what do we still not fully know about how the Games will function?

HOW THE SITUATION IS VIEWED IN JAPAN

While there appears little chance of another immediate postponement, there has not been particularly mass support from the people of Japan.

A Times report in January citing an unnamed Japanese government source suggested the Games would be cancelled – suggestions that were labelled as "categorically untrue" by the IOC.

But a survey taken by the Kyodo News Agency in the same month found approximately 80 per cent of people wanted another postponement or cancellation. 

A more recent poll taken by consultancy Kekst CNC found 56 per cent of respondents in the country do not want the Olympics to take place.

Confidence in Japan's ability to host the Games will hardly have been improved by the Olympic torch relay being prevented from taking place on public roads in Osaka on April 13 and 14 due to a surge in coronavirus cases.

While a full lockdown has never been imposed in Japan, a second state of emergency in Tokyo was only lifted on March 22.

Daily new infection rates in Japan decreased to a little over 500 in early March, but rates have steadily been on the rise again, with over 3,695 reported on April 10. Over 9,000 people have died after having a confirmed case in the country.

There are also concerns about the speed of the vaccine rollout in Japan, with frontline medical workers having not started receiving jabs until February. It could be July by the time the wider population is offered a shot.

PLAYBOOKS, TESTING AND NO MANDATORY VACCINATIONS

Despite those reservations, the IOC and Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee have pressed ahead to come up with an extensive collaborative list of rules in a 'playbook'.

Athletes and officials, members of the press, and international federations are among the groups who will have to follow playbooks for the duration of the Games.

The guidance we have all become so familiar with for over a year is stressed: avoid physical contact, maintain distance, follow good hand hygiene, wear masks, and keep away from crowded spaces where possible.

Chanting and singing is discouraged, with the playbook stating athletes should be supported instead by clapping.

Additionally, an activity plan must be provided for the first 14 days when entering Japan – including details of planned activities, travel intentions, and accommodation details.

All those required to adhere to the rules of the playbook are permitted to visit only official Games venues and selected other locations, while going to bars, shops, restaurants or tourist locations is not allowed.

No mandatory period of quarantining will be required, unlike what was in place for the tennis Australian Open earlier this year, but anyone who provides a positive coronavirus test will have to isolate – which the playbook states may be at a government-approved isolation facility.

Athletes will not be required to have received a vaccine against COVID-19 to take part in the Games, although the IOC has actively encouraged participants to take the opportunity if possible.

The issue of whether vaccines should be mandatory remains a contentious one. Middle-distance athlete Genzebe Dibaba, a silver medallist for Ethiopia in the 1,500 metres at Rio 2016, recently told Stats Perform News she feels competitors should get a jab.

"Yes, I think it's safe and more comfortable to manage, to meet with the other athletes. [I think it's] better to take the vaccine," she said.

Swimming great Mark Spitz, a legend of the 1972 Games in Munich where he won seven golds, also believes Olympians should take a vaccine.

Speaking courtesy of Laureus, Spitz told Stats Perform: "Personally I've received the vaccine because of my age, I didn't jump in front of anyone in line. And there's nothing to fear from the vaccine.

"According to the doctors and the experts we're somewhere in excess of 90 per cent protected - that doesn't mean I don't observe social distancing, masking up and all the other things we've heard so much about and have been observing.

"I think the athletes will have to cope with these type of observances. I think the athletes should be vaccinated, not only for their own good but for anyone they come into contact with in their journey to get to Tokyo."

Athletes are to be tested every four days, but no decision has yet been taken on whether a positive result will see competitors prohibited from taking part in their events – the contention over potentially false positive tests remaining a sticking point.

At past Olympics, Games accommodation 'villages' have earned a reputation as party venues, with competitors clustered and able to blow off steam at the end of a brutal four-year training cycle.

But this year promises to be an altogether different experience, with athletes told to arrive five days before competing and leave no later than two days after their event finishes.

Temperature checks are required to be taken every day, and playbooks warn that such tests will also be required to enter any official Games venue – a temperature of more than 37.5 degrees would mean a competitor is not allowed to enter.

TRAINING DISRUPTION AND OVERSEAS FANS BANNED

Disruption to the Games has not just been a nightmare for organisers. Athletes too have had to rip up plans and training schedules, and find ways to adapt during unusual times.

Qualifiers and warm-up events have been cancelled or rescheduled, many official competitions have bitten the dust, and several months have been spent at home training, with practice facilities closing during lockdowns.

Amid the uncertainty has been the real fear of a full cancellation, and many have pondered whether the Games will lack integrity due to the varying levels of preparedness of athletes.

But many also believe athletes will just be desperate to compete on the biggest stage of all after over 12 months of turmoil.

"Everybody knows how special the Olympics are; for an athlete it cannot really get any better. You obviously want to do yourself proud and your family, but also you are representing your country," Fabian Cancellara, the cycling time trial gold medallist at both the 2008 and 2016 Olympics, told Stats Perform.

"Obviously with cycling I had many other big events, but the Olympics is huge and something you can never forget both when competing and the whole Olympic experience.

"You wait four, or in this case five years. Who knows how it is going to be in Tokyo really, nobody is quite sure but I'm sure they can still put a great Olympics on.

"The athletes will be even more hungry after waiting an extra year and whoever gets to experience what I did and become an Olympic champion, it's going to be amazing for them."

Spitz acknowledged the disruption, but he too hopes competitors will have had ample time to prepare.

"I can't speak on behalf on a lot of different sports and how their training habits have been affected. I know swimming, for example, it's been a bit of a concern since we can't get into pools here in America," he said.

"It has a profound effect on swimming obviously. Especially these large pools we need to practise in, 50-metre pools, it's not in somebody's back yard, and you need to be coached and assembled in a team.

"So, this was put on the sidelines for a number of months back in the winter time, but a lot of the athletes are on track right now. They have opened up these facilities and far enough in advance that come time for the Olympic Games we're going to see top-notch performances from swimmers around the world. How it's affected gymnastics or other sports I'm not quite sure but it definitely has affected them."

One thing that is certain is those competing are sure to do so in a very different atmosphere to past Olympics.

Last month, it was confirmed no overseas visitors will be allowed to attend the Games – a significant blow to an event that prides itself on providing an international flavour.

Approximately 900,000 to one million tickets had reportedly been sold across the Olympic and Paralympic Games to overseas spectators, all of which will need to be refunded.

Fears of a behind-closed-doors Games are unlikely to come to fruition, although a decision about a potential cap on capacity of venues is likely to be made in the near future.

TOO COSTLY TO CANCEL?

Of course, for all the messages of unity and triumphing amid adversity, there will be cynics asking whether this all boils down to one thing: money.

There is undoubtedly an element of truth that there is plenty to lose financially.

As of December 2020, it was reported the budget for the Olympics had risen to a whopping £11.5billion, an extra £2.1bn compared to the totals a year prior.

The additional costs are said to be mainly down to measures needed to combat the threat of COVID-19 and the renegotiating of contracts.

And there is pressure too from broadcasters, who contribute to around three quarters of the IOC's budget, who remain adamant the Games should go ahead.

So, yes, here we are with 100 days to go and barring a monumental change of heart, the show will indeed go on.

Related items

  • Corey Bennett appointed head coach of many-time 'Champs' winners Calabar High School Corey Bennett appointed head coach of many-time 'Champs' winners Calabar High School

    Corey Bennett has been appointed the head track and field coach at Calabar High School, the school announced Wednesday.

    Bennett replaces Michael Clarke, whose tenure at the Red Hills Road high school, ended with his resignation in March. Clarke led Calabar High to nine of their 28 titles at the ISSA Boys and Girls’ Championships.

    Bennett was head coach at Hydel High School, transforming them into a perennial contender challenging Edwin Allen’s dominance of the championships over the last decade. He was also an assistant coach at St Jago High School and Wolmer’s Boys.

    Bennett has big shoes to fill at Calabar, the second most successful high school at Boys Champs if he is to equal or surpass Clarke’s legacy.

    According to a statement released by Calabar on Wednesday, the new head coach will be responsible for “leading and managing the track and field programme and for coaching the team within the established school guidelines.”

    The statement continued: “It is expected that he will build on the well-established foundation laid by his predecessors to hone and execute, along with his team, a competitive programme that is marked by exemplary sportsmanship, athletic excellence and unquestioned integrity while safeguarding the educational welfare of the student-athletes, all within the framework of  the school’s mission.”

    In recent years, Bennett has been instrumental in the development of some of jamaica's most outstanding junior athletes including NCAA 400m silver medallist Charokee Young, Carifta 2022 200m champion Brianna Lyston, Kerrica Hill and Alana Reid.

    Bennett was recently the head coach of Jamaica's team for the 49th edition of the Carifta Games held in Kingston in April.

    Jamaica won a record 92 medals at the championships including 45 gold medals.

     

     

  • "We are robbing ourselves and the sport of its greatness"-Michael Johnson says Fraser-Pryce and Thompson-Herah don't get enough credit "We are robbing ourselves and the sport of its greatness"-Michael Johnson says Fraser-Pryce and Thompson-Herah don't get enough credit

    Former Olympic champion Michael Johnson, who won two gold medals at the 1996 Atlanta Games, believes that Jamaican sprinting icons Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Elaine Thompson-Herah are underappreciated.

    In an interview with Athletics Weekly, the former 200m and 400m world record holder offered an interesting new lens to look at the sport, saying we should focus on head-to-head duels rather than fixating on times.

    Johnson said that nowadays, track and field is too focused on the times and not focused enough on the rivalry and the storytelling behind the scenes as well, and the women’s 100m rivalry between Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Elaine Thompson-Herah is a perfect opportunity to showcase that.

    “Yeah, I mean I would say that it’s a perfect example of the problem because I don’t think that Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce or Elaine Thompson-Herah get enough credit for what they’ve done in the sport because we’re so focused on times,” said Johnson.

    “So, you know right now I can see that you know what’s going to happen most likely with Elaine is, there’s going to continue for the remained of her career unless she breaks the World record in the 100m, a focus now on whether she breaks the world record or not and if she doesn’t, you know there’s a danger that people will be disappointed,” he said.

    The 29-year-old Thompson-Herah is a five-time Olympic champion and the 100m and 200m title holder from both Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020.

    At 35, Fraser-Pryce has three Olympic gold medals – eight medals in total – including the gold-standard 100m crown won at both Beijing 2008 and London 2012. She is also a nine-time world champion and the reigning world gold medallist at 100m.

    “I mean, then the fact that you have at the same time these two women from this very small island, who go head-to-head you know at these championships and they, between the two of them, they’ve won the gold medals in the 100m over the last four Olympic Games,” said Johnson.

    The current 100m world record has stood since 1988, Florence Griffith-Joyner, also known as Flo-Jo, became the only woman ever to break the 10.5-second barrier with a run of 10.49 at the US Olympic trials in 1988. Since then, many have deemed the mark impossible to beat – not least because of controversy regarding possible wind assistance at those trials.

    Johnson feels instead of focusing on the world record, we should be focused more on these athletes and their ability to deliver when it counts at championships.

    “You know that’s incredible and I think that should be celebrated. And if I think if we were focused more on these athletes and their ability to deliver when it counts at championships and win the head-to-head battle as opposed to well this time and what was the wind and you know is it a national record and how close is it to the world record and all of those things, I think we are robbing ourselves and the sport of its greatness,” he said.

     

  • Trinidad & Tobago men's sprint relay team receive Olympic gold medals 14 years later Trinidad & Tobago men's sprint relay team receive Olympic gold medals 14 years later

    The Trinidad and Tobago men’s 4x100-metre team who competed at the 2008 Beijing Olympics can now call themselves gold medallists 14 years later.

    Richard Thompson, Marc Burns, Keston Bledman, Emmanuel Callender and Aaron Armstrong received their medals in a short Olympic medal reallocation ceremony at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland, Tuesday.

    At the 2008 Olympics, Jamaica won the men’s 4x100m event, led by legendary sprinter Usain Bolt.

    However, in 2017, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) revealed that Nesta Carter, who ran the lead-off leg for the Jamaican quartet, had violated the anti-doping code by testing positive for methylhexaneamine.

    Jamaica was subsequently disqualified and T&T, who had earned silver, were announced as the new winners.

    At the ceremony on Tuesday, IOC president Thomas Bach said the IOC's goal was to protect the clean athletes and that he knew the T&T athletes would have liked to experience such a special moment at the 2008 Games

    After Bach spoke, the T&T athletes were introduced and brought on stage. After receiving their medals, president of the T&T Olympic Committee Diane Henderson presented all the athletes with a bouquet of flowers.

    The national anthem was played and then pictures were taken with the T&T flag.

    The athletes were accompanied by members of their family.

     

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.