The schedule is getting closer and closer to the Olympics which will be unlike anything we’ve seen before

The schedule is getting closer and closer to the Olympics which will be unlike anything we’ve seen before

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With 100 days to go before the world’s biggest sporting event, the questions of whether this will actually happen seem to be resolved.
But this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, like everything else in the COVID-19 era, will be unlike anything we’ve seen before.

“Although COVID-19 continues to infect people all over the world, our confidence is growing around Tokyo 2020 and the ability of these Games to be held safely and successfully,” said the CEO of the Canadian Olympic Committee , David Shoemaker. The Games are scheduled to open on July 23, and the Paralympics begin on August 24.

Shoemaker said these Games would not be the “packed jubilant” spectacle often associated with the Olympics. Rather, the Tokyo Games will focus on the health and safety of athletes, who will not be required to quarantine or be vaccinated to compete.

Athletes will need to adhere to a long list of safety protocols published by the International Olympic Committee, such as leaving the Games 48 hours after competition and not visiting non-Olympic venues, including bars and restaurants. In addition, no international fan will be allowed to attend.

“These will be different Olympics, but certainly better if they don’t all happen,” said Richard Pound, longtime Canadian IOC member.

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Morgan Campbell, Meghan McPeak and Dave Zirin discuss precautions to keep the Tokyo 2020 Olympics on track. 6:35

It’s been a little over a year since the Tokyo organizers and the IOC decided to postpone the Olympics until this summer. Although little is known about the rapidly expanding coronavirus, it was evident that bringing athletes from different countries together was unwise.

And while people around the world are slowly being vaccinated, many countries, including Canada, are still under various forms of shutdown as governments grapple with new variants of the deadly virus.

Compared to most other countries, Japan has been relatively successful in combating COVID-19, recording around half a million cases and more than 9,000 deaths as of April 15. By comparison, Canada, with about 100 million fewer people, has recorded about one million cases. and over 23,000 deaths.

Police officers try to cordon off protesters in Tokyo last month during a protest against the unfolding of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. (The Associated Press)

What changed?

So, a year later, with COVID-19 still on the rise, what has changed to make the Olympics now possible?

“We know so much more about the virus itself and how it circulates. We know a lot more about the steps we can take to protect ourselves from it, ”said Shoemaker. “This is fundamentally why we believe we can now bring Team Canada safely to Tokyo 2020 in the summer of 21 and do so successfully.

Volunteer training for the Games takes place through virtual courses. (Getty Images)

Olympic officials have also had a year to observe how other international events have weathered the pandemic, some with more success than others.

« I think COVID will be lived with. It’s not that it won’t be overcome by the end of July or early August of this year, but we know more about it, ”Pound said.

“I would say we were probably looking for the best organized Games in history. “

I think COVID will be lived with. It’s not that it won’t be overcome by late July or early August of this year, but we know more about it.– Dick Pound, membre du CIO

At the same time, he is aware that things could change quickly.

“There’s a certain element of crossed fingers that there isn’t an overwhelming surge of the COVID virus that puts all of this at risk,” Pound said. “But I think that risk has been managed very successfully and I think we are going to have, against all odds, some very successful Games. “

Getting to a point where the starting line is finally in sight was a monumental challenge for everyone involved. And there are still many obstacles to overcome.

Lack of routine and certainty

Organizers, athletes and coaches thrive on routine and certainty, both of which have been missing this Olympic year.

“Normally the Games are pretty predictable. All games are pretty much the same and all time frames are generally the same. These Games are completely different, ”said Catherine Gosselin Desprès, Head of Sport for the Canadian Paralympic Committee.

“Everyone wants certainties. And that’s just not the reality we are in right now. We are in an environment that can change at any time, ”said James Cartwright, a high performance manager for Canoe Kayak Canada. “It’s a challenge, and it certainly isn’t the Olympics that anyone wished they had. ”

Sports organizations, like Canada Canoe Kayak, strive to find events to help their athletes qualify before the Olympics. (Getty Images)

With ever-changing protocols and rules, athletes have spent the last year traveling the world to find spaces and facilities where they are allowed to train and compete. COVID-19 has also caused massive disruption in the global sporting calendar, leaving Canadian officials scrambling to find suitable events for athletes to qualify for a spot on the Olympic team.

In Canada, about three-quarters of the 35 sports organizations that will compete in Tokyo have yet to finalize their teams.

Take, for example, the last place of the Canadian whitewater paddling team. There are currently two paddlers competing, but the problem has been to find an event for them. Officials had originally planned to use the Pan American Championships in Brazil, which were to take place the first week of May, until it was canceled. They then turned to two World Cup events scheduled for the Czech Republic and Germany. Now, due to the increase in the number of COVID-19 in both countries, these events could be in doubt.

Andre De Grasse, left, will have a spot on Canada’s track team, but there are still plenty of other athletes trying to make their way to Tokyo. (Alexander Hassenstein / Getty Images for IAAF / file)

The Canadian track and field team faces a similar dilemma. Under a new qualifying system, around two-thirds of the squad will qualify for Tokyo by entry standards. The rest of the team will qualify based on the world rankings, requiring athletes to attend events in order to earn much-needed points.

Not all qualifying events will be possible

The COC recognizes that not all qualifying events leading up to Tokyo will be possible and that other qualifying mechanisms may leave some athletes feeling aggrieved.

You might have people who inadvertently took advantage of this environment and then others who fell victim to this situation.– David Shoemaker, CEO of the Canadian Olympic Committee

But for some athletes, the arduous process of qualifying can be the easiest part of their Olympic experience.

“The teams that will do the best, the countries that will do the best and the individual athletes that will do the best are the ones who are the most flexible and have the most mental resilience,” said Simon Nathan, Director of High Performance at ‘Athletics Canada. .

Along with a long list of health protocols, athletes will also have to adjust to the huge time zone change and what could be one of the hottest games ever. July temperatures in Japan could reach 32 ° C.

They will be required to wear masks at all times, except during competitions. They will be tested every four days and their temperature will be checked each time they enter an Olympic venue.

Even so, positive tests are considered inevitable, which means athletes and perhaps those related to them will be sent home without achieving their Olympic dreams.

That’s why these Tokyo Games will be different – it’s not so much about scoring medals and personal bests, but getting to the finish line safely.

“I think part of Tokyo will be how we define winning,” said Shoemaker. “Maybe this next chapter will be about how we come to Tokyo to prepare for this virus, how we use the games themselves as a beacon of hope.

“And I would like to think that we win a few medals along the way, but that’s a bit secondary to our thinking at this point. “

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