Tokyo Olympics: Daily Diary

By Sports Desk July 23, 2021

It's been a long time coming but the Olympics are here at last!

Postponed by 12 months due to the coronavirus pandemic, there was a very real fear these Games wouldn't happen at all.

Yet, after an opening ceremony mixing poignancy with hope in Tokyo, the 32nd Olympic summer Games are officially underway!

Over the next two and a bit weeks, Stats Perform's man on the ground, Peter Hanson, will bring you daily updates from life in Tokyo.


Fireworks, flags, magnificent drones and mixed fashion successes at the opening ceremony 

Amid all the uncertainty over these Games, it was genuinely rather heart-warming to see the athletes arriving at Tokyo's Olympic Stadium.

The flags over 200 nations were waved, as hordes of athletes were paraded in front of a little under 1,000 delegates and dignitaries.

Some teams were looking quite dapper (kudos Team GB), while the sight of topless Tongan, Pita Taufatofua, was a welcome one.

There were a couple of fashion faux pas (those green Germany tracksuits…wow). But whatever controversy there may have been, we are (officially) underway!

And perhaps most impressive was the 1,824 drones used to illuminate the Tokyo sky, switching from the Olympics emblem to a light-up globe.

Dealing with jet lag…

So far, it's been a busy start work wise in Tokyo with writers' briefings and plenty of content to be produced…but due to the fact I have to quarantine life has been consigned to the hotel thus far.

One of the issues to contend with has been jet lag and trying to adjust to being in a different time zone – something I've yet to fully achieve with regular wake-up calls at 2.30am in the morning.

It's not been a problem for Team GB sprint star Dina Asher-Smith, though, who says she has learnt her lesson from a previous bad experience at the Beijing Olympics.

She said: "To be fair, it [jet lag] hasn't been rough, obviously in 2015 we did Japan before we did the Beijing World Championships. That one, and I can be frank about it now, [I] really messed up the jet lag - we were off for about 10 days six years ago!"

Anime to get you in the spirit?

It's fair to say the clamour for these Games from the people living Japan has not exactly been high, in large due to the fear of the spread of coronavirus.

But many are attempting to drum up the Olympic spirit - including a group of artists who have drawn up a series of samurai characters inspired by the flags of competing countries for the World Flags projects, with nations such as South Africa, India and Great Britain represented.

Speaking to BBC News, creator Kamaya Yamamoto said: "Samurais are unique to Japan and we want everyone to get to know traditional Japanese culture."

Djokovic and Murray back on the court together

It has been four years since Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic shared a court for a competitive game of tennis, largely due to the former's well-documented injury issues.

Murray is the two-time defending men's singles Olympic champion, while Djokovic is gunning for top spot on podium as part of his bid to complete a Golden Slam in 2021.

On Friday, fans of these two megastars would have had their hearts warmed to see the pair sharing the practice courts ahead of the start of the tennis tournament on Saturday.

Following their knock, Djokovic took to social media to thank Murray for a "great practice". Isn't that just lovely?

Related items

  • Man City nearly impenetrable, Man Utd issues masked by penalty miss, bad omens for Nuno – the Premier League weekend's quirky facts Man City nearly impenetrable, Man Utd issues masked by penalty miss, bad omens for Nuno – the Premier League weekend's quirky facts

    Manchester City made something of a statement in their 1-0 win over potential title challengers Chelsea on Saturday, whereas Manchester United seemed to take another step back as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's reign stuttered again.

    But Solskjaer is certainly not the only top-flight manager feeling the heat – Nuno Espirito Santo's honeymoon period as Tottenham boss is well and truly over, with the Portuguese now among the favourites to be the first Premier League boss sacked this season following a 3-1 defeat in the north London derby.

    Without any further ado, here are some of the more curious facts and stats from across the Premier League this past weekend…

    City defence putting the 'guard' in Guardiola

    It may not have been the thrill ride neutrals were likely hoping for, but City's 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge was another impressive indicator of just how good Pep Guardiola's team is as a unit.

    Of course, they won the Premier League only a few months ago, so saying City are "good" probably won't cut it for analysis – but what is really making people sit up and take note at the moment is how their unity and cohesion is translating into defensive solidity.

    City have conceded just one goal in their six Premier League games this term, the fewest they've ever shipped at this stage of any league campaign.

    Let's not forget that Chelsea had been widely praised for their own start to 2021-22, yet on Saturday they were prevented from having a single shot on target in a home league game since November 2012, which coincidentally was also against City.

    But even more impressive from City's perspective was the fact Chelsea's expected goals (xG) value was just 0.2, the worst they've recorded in a home Premier League game since Opta records began in 2008-09.

    While Chelsea fans will understandably be frustrated, it would seem their struggles on Saturday were more down to City being in a groove defensively.

    They've only faced six shots on target this season, a record no Premier League has bettered over the first six matches in a campaign since at least 2003-04. If they keep this up, the title will surely be staying at the Etihad Stadium.

    Fernandes' penalty miss not Man Utd's big issue

    It was another day to forget for United on Saturday as they lost 1-0 at home to Aston Villa.

    They were presented with a great opportunity to equalise in second-half stoppage time, but Bruno Fernandes sent his penalty over the crossbar.

    Much of the focus afterwards was on Fernandes and his miss, though it would be unfair to pin the blame on him – after all, of the 23 spot-kicks he has taken since his United debut, he's only failed to convert two.

    In the same time period, Cristiano Ronaldo – seemingly Fernandes' main penalty rival now – has taken 22 and missed four. This is not a problem that United need to dwell on much.

    Instead, they'd be wise to look into their glaring tactical inefficiencies, with Solskjaer's team sorely lacking identity, cohesion and a defined playing style. Too often they are bailed out by moments of individual brilliance, which is an unsustainable approach to solely rely on in a title challenge.

    Against Villa, those instances of individual excellence never arrived, despite United mustering 28 shots. That was the most efforts attempted by United without scoring in a home league game since October 2016 (38 shots in 0-0 draw with Burnley).

    They have now conceded in each of their past eight league games at Old Trafford, their worst such run in 49 years, and lost three successive home matches (all competitions) for the first time since 1962.

    Norwich set new benchmark for worst start

    With every match that passes, the light at the end of the tunnel seems to become ever dimmer for Norwich City.

    A 2-0 defeat at Everton on Saturday leaves Norwich pointless and with a -14 goal difference after six matches – that makes their start to the season the worst after six matches in Premier League history.

    Only twice before had a Premier League side begun a campaign without a single point from six games, the last of which was Frank de Boer's infamous Crystal Palace team in 2017-18 – the Dutchman was sacked after the fourth match in that sequence.

    Norwich have at least been a little more patient than Palace, with Daniel Farke's record of overseeing two promotions seemingly ensuring he retains some good will at the club, even if he now has the highest loss percentage (75 per cent, 33/44) of any manager to take charge of at least 20 games in the Premier League.

    Most would already consider Norwich to be doomed for relegation, though perhaps there is some reason for optimism.

    There have only been nine teams to start a top-flight season (prior to 2021-22) with six or more successive losses, but four of them – including Palace – have avoided relegation.

    Vardy joins exclusive club

    Jamie Vardy ended up having a peculiar day when Leicester City drew 2-2 with Burnley on Saturday, the former England striker scoring three of the four goals.

    It was his own goal that gave Burnley an early lead, while he also got both Leicester equalisers, including one late in the day.

    That was his first own goal ever in 360 appearances for Leicester, while he became the first player to net at both ends for the club in a single Premier League game.

    It's happened to some of the best, though. He joins an illustrious list containing 11 others who have scored at least 100 goals but also put past their own goalkeeper, with Harry Kane, Steven Gerrard, Paul Scholes, Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney among them.

    On top of that, Vardy is now only one of five players in Premier League history to score at least twice at the right end and an own goal in the same game after John Barnes (Liverpool v Spurs 1995), Niall Quinn (Sunderland v Charlton Athletic 2001), Rooney (Man Utd v Stoke City 2012) and Tammy Abraham (Chelsea v Wolves 2019).

    But he is still doing more than his fair share at the other end, his brace in this game taking him to eight goal involvements in his past seven league games, which is 89 per cent (8/9) of Leicester's goals in that time.

    Bad omens stacking up for Nuno

    After three wins from his first three Premier League games in charge, everything was looking rather rosy for Tottenham boss Nuno.

    Three matches and three defeats later, some will doubt whether he'll still be in charge this time next month, let alone this time next season.

    Sunday's north London derby was his 10th in charge of Spurs and the 3-1 loss made him the first manager to lose as many as four of his first 10 matches at the helm of the club since Glenn Hoddle in 2001.

    Hoddle was also the last Spurs boss to conceded at least three goals in three consecutive league games in September 2003, and he was sacked after that run.

    Nuno will probably make it to the next match but the last team to begin a season with three wins and then lost the next three (Everton, 1993-94) finish as low down as 17th.

    His future arguably rests on getting something out of Kane, who's failed to score in five straight league games for the first time since August 2016, but things aren't looking great given Spurs' 35 open-play shots is the second fewest in the division and their expected goals (xG) total is just 3.2, only higher than three teams.

    While a lack of quality chances might usually be masked by Kane's excellence, he's not bailing them out any longer – if that continues, it's difficult to see Nuno keeping his job for the long term.

  • Arsenal aristocrats savour the sinking of Spurs on dream derby day for Arteta Arsenal aristocrats savour the sinking of Spurs on dream derby day for Arteta

    It made Thierry Henry and Tony Adams happy, and Mikel Arteta on the touchline was so excited by it all that he probably expended more energy than the Tottenham midfield.

    So bravo Arsenal, bravo. A 3-1 win – their 600th in the Premier League – over Tottenham looks great on paper and proved rather fetching on grass, too, the Gunners picking off their north London neighbours at will, particularly in an embarrassingly one-sided first half.

    But in essence, this was all about keeping up with the Joneses. Any significance from a sunny Sunday afternoon's Emirates Stadium stroll can only be gauged by what Arsenal, and indeed Spurs, do next.

    Successive 1-0 wins over Norwich City and Burnley kept the wolves from Arteta's door after Arsenal's slow start to the Premier League season, and this derby success was received like they used to savour championships in these parts.

    Of course, there is a temptation to look at this result without a dispassionate perspective, to rave about Emile Smith Rowe, who was excellent, and Bukayo Saka, whose season perhaps starts now. The young English pair both scored and both had an assist, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang played like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang rather than an imposter.

    Record scorer Henry, sitting in the stand alongside Spotify billionaire Daniel Ek, was all smiles and giggles, while former skipper Adams, in the Sky Sports studio, gushed about "a wonderful, wonderful first-half display". The Gunners gentry were grinning, dreaming it might be the start of something.

    "I'm excited guys, I'm excited," Adams said, almost apologetically. "I was absolutely delighted the kids took the game to Tottenham."

    Even Gary Neville said Arsenal had been "fantastic", and in many ways they were.


    SPURS TAKE A HIDING

    Smith Rowe wandered untracked into the heart of the Spurs penalty area to drive home Saka's low centre for the 12th-minute opener; then Aubameyang put the finishing touch to a glorious Arsenal counter-attack, Tierney to Aubameyang, on to the galloping Smith Rowe with a delicious flick, then back to Aubameyang for an unstoppable finish into the far right corner.

    Tottenham were torn apart again in the 34th minute as Saka bundled his way through a desperate Spurs defence before driving a shot across Lloris.

    Harry Kane had given the ball away at the other end of the pitch and dashed back to try to make amends, only to nudge Saka's attempted pass handily back into the path of his England colleague, who pounced on the chance.

    Smith Rowe, at 21 years and 60 days, firstly became the youngest player to score and assist in a Premier League north London derby since Cesc Fabregas in September 2007.

    Then Saka took that record outright from Fabregas, 21 days after his 20th birthday. Saka is also the youngest Englishman to score a league goal for Arsenal against Spurs since a 19-year-old Stewart Robson at Highbury in April 1984.

    Son Heung-min got Spurs a goal in the 79th minute, ending their 307-minute goalless run, and Lucas Moura hit the bar in stoppage time, but this was a hiding for the visitors.

    "They weren't competitive in any shape or form," said Graeme Souness, incandescent.

    "Arsenal would wish they could play against a team like Spurs were in the first 45 minutes every week. Spurs were so poor."


    KANE DRAWS A BLANK AGAIN

    Kane went for a Hail Mary shot from 28 yards and the Arsenal crowd gleefully jeered as the ball cleared the bar by several yards. The England captain then headed wide from a corner and another roar went up.

    Aaron Ramsdale pushed aside a Kane shot that may have been drifting wide as Spurs showed more spark after the break, before the Tottenham talisman scooped a shot wide after running in behind the Arsenal defence for the first time.

    He cannot buy a Premier League goal this season. Five games in and he has yet to get off the mark, but at least he had five attempts here, more than doubling his tally for the campaign. It was 2016 when he last went on a five-game goalless streak.

    Aubameyang answered his own critics in style and has now scored in all three of his home Premier League games against Spurs, but Kane only fuelled the arguments of those questioning his performance this season. Dele Alli was hauled off after 45 wasted minutes, with Sky pundit Neville saying: "He needs to sort himself out."


    SPURS NEED TO CHANGE THEIR TUNE

    Spurs have conceded three goals in three consecutive Premier League games for the first time since September 2003, and after the derby dismay against Crystal Palace and Chelsea, here was another savage reminder of their shortcomings.

    They are only the second team in Premier League history to win their first three games of a season and then lose the next three, following the Everton team of 1993-94 who finished in 17th place.

    So for one day at least, we might say Tottenham are in dire trouble and the future looks bright for Arsenal, despite them sitting alongside one another in mid-table.

    And, of course, the CEO of Spotify fancies Arsenal. He loved the 80s mix, the 90s mix and the 2000s mix, and senses the 2020s mix could have a rocking soundtrack too, bouncing to the beat of Saka, Smith Rowe and Martin Odegaard.

    Tottenham, for now it seems, are lacking punk, lacking soul, stuck on a sad-song, life-sucks loop.

  • Guardiola gets it right as Man City benefit from Tuchel tactical tangle Guardiola gets it right as Man City benefit from Tuchel tactical tangle

    It was almost as though Thomas Tuchel was trolling Pep Guardiola, picking three defensive midfielders and two strikers. 

    Guardiola had paid a high price for leaving his water carriers out of May's Champions League final battle between these teams. On Friday, he pointedly stressed he would not complain about his squad, yet also acknowledged City lacked a lethal finisher in the mould of a Romelu Lukaku. 

    But this was a day when Guardiola resoundingly won the tactical battle, inflicting a first defeat of the season on Tuchel's Chelsea, ending City's sequence of three successive defeats to the men in royal blue. 

    Chelsea had last enjoyed a longer run of wins against City when they strung eight together from December 2005 to March 2009, the balance of power in English football being very different in that period. 

    Now City are champions of the Premier League and have been so five times in the last 10 seasons, and, A-list striker or no A-list striker, they might just pull it off again. 

    Tuchel put an inordinate level of trust in the Lukaku and Timo Werner frontline combination working, as they began a game together for the first time. That smacked of cavalier coaching, an uncalled-for tactical shift in the biggest match of Chelsea's season so far, disrupting the system that last week delivered a ruthless 3-0 win at Tottenham. 

    By sacrificing a midfield berth, Chelsea could not compete with City in that area, and duly the supply to Lukaku and Werner was hopelessly inadequate. 

    And how did the Lukaku-Werner combination work out across the 90 minutes? Werner played one pass that found his new £97.5million team-mate, and Lukaku did not find the German with the ball at all. 

    The midfields were silk and sandpaper, City with all the finesse and Chelsea the industry, but whereas City had a little snap too, with Rodri selected in the anchor role, Chelsea were woefully short of invention, utterly reliant on their full-backs pushing forward. They wanted to strong-arm their way to victory, and instead their limitations were laid bare. 

    "Champions of Europe, we know what we are", sang the Chelsea fans at kick-off, followed by "Champions of Europe, you'll never sing that". 

    Their songs soon fell flat. 

    Guardiola left Rodri and Fernandinho out of his Champions League team, when at least one of them had played in 59 of City's 60 games up to that point of the 2020-21 season, and Chelsea got the better of a team lacking its usual steel. 

    It was a decision that felt over-thought, Guardiola outwitting himself in his eagerness to surprise Chelsea. But Rodri was back here, helping to shield a defence that might have expected a busier afternoon. 

    Of course N'Golo Kante started for Chelsea, after his starring role against City in that European showpiece, but did Chelsea really need both Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic alongside him, leaving Kai Havertz, goal hero of the May final in Porto, and Hakim Ziyech on the bench? No ship requires three active anchors, and their inclusion suggested Tuchel had gone overboard. 

    Chelsea had just 33.3 per cent of first-half possession, and that figure was bolstered by them seeing more of the ball in the final 10 minutes, having been under 30 per cent until then. 

    City had six shots to Chelsea's one by the break, and the visitors were winning 56.3 per cent of the duels, Rodri finding his man with 41 of 42 passes by the break, also winning possession seven times, more than anyone. 

    Come full-time, City led 15-5 on shots, 4-0 on shots on target, Rodri had completed 74 of his 78 passes (94.9 per cent) and finished with a team-high 10 possession wins. His presence was colossal, allowing the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Jack Grealish and Phil Foden to rampage. 

    Guardiola said City would "do it as a group" as they aim to come up with the goals a world-class striker might score. He missed out on Harry Kane and Cristiano Ronaldo, but in Gabriel Jesus he has a Brazil international who might just fancy showing his boss he can be a 20-goal hitman again. 

    Chelsea were undone in the 53rd minute when Joao Cancelo's shot after a short-corner move only ran as far as Jesus, who turned sharply and fired, with the help of a deflection of Jorginho, into the bottom left corner. 

    That was the first shot to hit the target in the match, Opta said, and there was almost a second City goal moments later when Grealish sidestepped Cesar Azpilicueta on the left and curled towards the far post, with Edouard Mendy's fingertips pushing the ball wide for a corner. 

    Thiago Silva cleared off the line from Jesus, then Mendy denied Grealish late on as City pushed for the second goal they surely deserved. 

    Chelsea had just 39.62 per cent of possession in the Champions League final but dominated the chances there, with an expected goals (xG) total of 1.45 to City's 0.45 reflecting their greater threat in the final third. 

    Here, it was City with 1.45 xG against Chelsea's paltry 0.2, Guardiola getting one over the team who have given him plenty of anguish over the years, inflicting eight defeats, more than any other against a Pep side. 

    Guardiola's players celebrated with their fans, who included Oasis' Noel Gallagher, tossing shirts into the crowd, knowing this time they and their coach had implemented a master plan. 

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