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

  • Personal bests for Lamara Distin, Roje Stona, as Jamaicans experience mixed fortunes at NCAA Championships Personal bests for Lamara Distin, Roje Stona, as Jamaicans experience mixed fortunes at NCAA Championships

    Jamaica’s collegiate athletes experienced mixed fortunes over the final two days of the 2021 NCAA Division I Outdoor Championships that concluded at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon on Saturday.

    Texas A&M’s Lamara Distin and Clemson’s Roje Stona were among the most successful and Baylor freshman Ackera Nugent experienced how unforgiving the scheduling can be.

    Distin, who turned 21 in March, cleared a personal best of 1.90m to win the silver medal in the high jump completion. It took a personal best of 1.93m from South Carolina freshman to deny her the victory in the contest that Distin’s Texas A&M teammate Tyra Gittens finish third having cleared 1.87m.

    On Friday, Stona threw a personal best of 61.94m to claim the silver medal for Clemson University. Turner Washington won the event with a throw of 63.42m. University of Virginia freshman Claudio Romero threw 61.36m for the bronze medal.

    Ackera Nugent had a rough time of it Saturday because after finishing third in the 100m hurdles in a relatively modest 12.84, immediately she had to line up for the final of the 100m. She was still breathing heavily from the exertions of the hurdles race when they were called to their blocks in the 100m.

    Unsurprisingly, she finished ninth in 11.37.

    USC’s Anna Cockrell ran 12.58s to win sprint hurdles over Rayniah Jones, who ran 12.82.

    North Carolina A&T’s Cambrea Sturgis won the 100m in 10.74 with the aid of a trailing wind of 2.2m/s. USC’s Twanisha Terry (10.79), Alabama’s Tamara Clark (10.88), were second and third, respectively.

    Kemba Nelson, meanwhile, was fourth in 10.90.

    Cockrell later won the 400m hurdles in a new personal best and collegiate-leading time of 54.68. Arizona’s Shannon Meisberger stormed by Virginia’s Andrenette Knight late to take the silver medal in 55.70 forcing the Jamaican, who ran 55.81, to settle for the bronze medal.

     Texas A&M freshman Charokee Young and Texas sophomore Stacey-Ann Williams were the two Jamaicans in the final of the 400m and finished fifth and sixth in 51.13 and 51.34, respectively. They, like everyone else, were no match for Young’s teammate Athing Mu, who ran a personal best 49.57 for victory.

    Mu’s winning time was also a collegiate-leading, meet record and facility record.

    Florida freshman Talitha Diggs ran a personal best 50.74 for the runner-up position while USC’s Kyra Constantine clocked a personal best 50.87 for the final podium spot.

    Young and Mu would run splits of 49.7 and 48.8, respectively to lead Texas A&M to a record-shattering time of 3:22.34 to win the 4x400m relay. A&M’s season-best time was also a collegiate leading time as well as a meet record, facility record and championship record.

    USC was second in a season-best 3:24.54 and UCLA was third in their season-best time of 3:25.01. The first eight teams across the line all ran season-best times.

    Other than Stona, former Jamaica College athlete Phillip Lemonious was perhaps the best male performer for Jamaica. The Arkansas freshman ran a personal best 13.39 to take the bronze medal in the 110m hurdles that was won by Alabama’s Robert Dunning in 13.25.

    Iowa’s Jaylan McConico ran 12.38 to edge out the Jamaican for the silver medal.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • Tyra Gittens wins heptathlon gold, high jump bronze on final day of NCAA Outdoor Championships Tyra Gittens wins heptathlon gold, high jump bronze on final day of NCAA Outdoor Championships

    Six days after her 23rd birthday, Tyra Gittens gifted herself the heptathlon title on what was for her a bittersweet final day of the 2021 NCAA Division I Outdoor Athletics Championships at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.

    In what she described as the hardest meet of her life, the Texas A&M junior topped the heptathlon high jump (1.84m), long jump (6.64) and 200m (23.79) on the way to her second-best score of 6285 points that was more than enough for victory but 135 points off the Olympic qualifying standard of 6420.

    It was, however, 218 more of the University of Miami’s Michelle Atherley. The Miami senior, who was the fastest in the 100m hurdles (13.15), scored 6067 points for the silver medal. University of Texas freshman Kristine Blazevica scored 5984 points for the bronze medal.

    Putting it simply, after three days of gruelling competition, Gittens just ran out of gas. She literally fell across the finish line to complete the heptathlon 800m in which she was 19th overall, scoring 707 points for her time of 2:28.88.

    Her legs were sapped because after the long jump on Thursday in which she won a silver medal, Gittens then had four events in the heptathlon on Friday before completing the other three on Saturday even while contending for individual honours in the high jump.

    She just managed to complete the high jump 10 minutes before competing in the heptathlon 800m, her final event of the meet.

    The athlete, who has a season-best of 1.95m was only able to clear 1.87m, good enough for third place behind A&M teammate, Jamaica’s Lamara Distin, who cleared a personal best 1.90m to win the silver medal. The gold medal went to South Carolina freshman, Rachel Glenn, who cleared a personal-best 1.93m.

    Gittens just missed out on long-jump gold on Thursday when she soared out to 6.68m, two centimetres shy of the winning mark of 6.70m by Texas sophomore Tara Davis.

     Jasmine Moore of Georgia jumped 6.65m for the bronze medal.

     

     

  • Cancelo tests positive for COVID-19, Dalot called up by Portugal Cancelo tests positive for COVID-19, Dalot called up by Portugal

    Portugal have been dealt a blow ahead of their Euro 2020 campaign, with full-back Joao Cancelo testing positive for COVID-19 and Diogo Dalot called up.

    Manchester City right-back Cancelo had an exceptional season for the Premier League champions, and looked set to be a key player for Portugal as they aim to defend their European crown.

    Indeed, he scored one and set up another as Portugal ended their preparations with a 4-0 friendly win over Israel on Wednesday.

    However, the 27-year-old returned a positive test on Saturday and has now been placed into isolation. Further tests carried out across the rest of the squad revealed no more positive cases.

    In accordance with UEFA's rules for the tournament, Portugal have replaced Cancelo with uncapped Manchester United defender Dalot, who spent last season on loan at Milan.

    "Under-21 international Diogo Dalot will join the national team's delegation in Budapest to prepare for his debut at Euro 2020," a Portugal statement read.
     
    "He will replace Joao Cancelo, who tested positive for COVID-19 following a rapid antigen test carried out this Saturday by the FPF Health and Performance Unit.
     
    "The Hungarian health authorities were immediately informed and the player – who is doing well – was placed in isolation.
     
    "The result of the test carried out by USP was confirmed by an RT-PCR test carried out on Joao Cancelo also on Saturday and whose result was known on Sunday morning.
     
    "In accordance with the COVID-19 protocol defined by UEFA before the EURO 2020 matches, all players and members of the entourage underwent RT-PCR tests on Saturday. The results, with the exception of Joao Cancelo, were negative."

    Fernando Santos' side start their campaign against Hungary on Tuesday, before taking on Germany four days later and rounding off their Group F fixtures against world champions France.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.