The countdown to the delayed Tokyo Olympics is on with 100 days until the opening ceremony on July 23. But how prepared are Japan and Team GB and what will the Games be like in the midst of a global pandemic?
How prepared is Tokyo to host the Games?
To say that the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee faced challenges is an understatement. Apart from the global pandemic and the one-year postponement, Tokyo 2020 had to replace its president, after he resigned amid public outrage at the sexist remarks. They also accepted the resignation of the director of the opening ceremony over inappropriate comments directed at an actress.
For its part, however, they seem to have overcome these difficulties. They appointed a woman president of Seiko Hashimoto and added 12 new female directors to the board, meaning that women now make up 42% of a previously male-dominated committee.
As you would expect from the world’s third-largest economy, the venues and stadiums are ready. However, some of the traditional preparatory testing has been affected by concerns related to Covid.
The April Diving World Cup was first canceled before being renegotiated for early May. Among other events scheduled for May, the Olympic swimming marathon qualifier was moved to Portugal and the artistic gymnastics test event was canceled due to restrictions on international travelers.
Regarding the plans for the appearance of the Games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has published a first draft of its “playbook” explaining the many rules to be followed to ensure a “safe and successful” event this summer.
Among the measures is a request for spectators to refrain from singing or cheering and to applaud only for the competitors. Physical contact between athletes, such as hugs and handshakes, will also be prohibited.
Teams have been asked to minimize the size of their delegation and will have to adhere to strict guidelines for hygiene, social distancing and screening. Travel within Japan for all accredited participants will be limited and limited to the use of official transportation, and only between their accommodation and training and competition venues.
Visits to tourist sites, shops and restaurants are prohibited.
Will the Games take place?
In March, IOC President Thomas Bach said: “The question is not whether, the question is how these Olympic Games will play out.”
So far, comments from some local officials and other key stakeholders seemed to leave the door open. The Japanese government, however, said reports that it had privately admitted that the Games were to be canceled was “categorically false.”
The Japanese public also seem to have their own reservations about the future of the Games. Various opinion polls over the past year have consistently found that the majority of Japanese citizens are not in favor – although dissenting votes fell from around 80% to just under 60% in the latest survey.
As for the Covid situation in Japan, it has been much less serious than in many other countries around the world, including the United Kingdom. The total number of Covid-related deaths recorded in the country at the start of April was around 9,300.
However, infection rates in the Tokyo metropolitan area are on the rise, reaching their highest number since early February, with the number of infections reported at around 500 cases per day.
This led authorities to reimpose emergency restrictions on the opening hours of restaurants and bars, with Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike saying it was “urgent” to take such measures “or else we will inevitably see a situation where infections will spread and get worse. “.
Nonetheless, with the release of the playbooks, along with other security measures put in place, it looks like the Games will indeed take place on July 23, albeit in an entirely different form.
Among the many protocols already described to manage the risk of infections, the most important was the decision to ban international spectators and volunteers who came to Japan for the Games.
Organizers could even limit the number of local spectators. The Olympic Torch Relay began on March 26 in Japan, but in order to minimize crowds, the names of celebrities carrying the torch are not revealed until 30 minutes before the start of their stage.
In Osaka, Japan’s second city and current epicenter of Covid in the country, the relay has been moved to take place in a park totally closed to the public.
Despite security measures and assurances, one country has so far announced that it will not participate, with North Korea saying its decision was made in order to protect its athletes from Covid infection.
How are the preparations for Team GB going?
The state of preparations of the GB team was described as “very well advanced” by their mission leader, Mark England, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic.
“Naturally we had to adapt to climate change and make some changes to our plans,” England said. “We are fortunate that facilities such as our preparation camp and performance pavilion are safe, secure and fully functional thanks to all of our stakeholders in Japan.
“We are confident that we will bring a very strong team to the Games, which I believe will be a unique and special chance to celebrate sport and humanity around the world. “
But, like most aspects of life since the start of 2020, the pandemic has had a huge effect on sport and Olympic qualifying.
Many UK athletes, especially indoor sports, had to suspend or adjust their training schedules until last summer, when they were allowed to resume their activities inside the venues. It remains to be seen if and how this, along with the reduction in competitive outings, can affect the results in Tokyo.
British boxers hoped to secure most of their places in Tokyo last year in March, but the European qualifying event in London was suspended at mid-race as the pandemic set in and only Galal Yafai and Peter McGrail were able to do it. secure quota places before the procedure is interrupted.
The resumption of the event a year later has also been postponed and the qualifying route has now been changed to incorporate a ranking system as well as another qualifying tournament.
In triathlon, the two-time Olympic male champion Alistair Brownlee has three months to prove himself worthy of being selected. The Yorkshireman had moved away from Olympic distance competition in recent years to focus on Ironman-style events and, having lost a year of competition due to Covid cancellations, he will have to use three or four world-class events to convince selectors that it should once. others join his brother Jonny at the Tokyo Olympics.
While many athletes must follow a delayed or truncated qualifying schedule, others who would have planned to make it to the Games last year have decided they can no longer put their post-competitive lives on hold.
The Likes of Rio Olympic bronze medalist judoka Sally Conway, who said after retiring in February that she “would have competed 100%” last summer, now believes the time has come to move on thing.
Boxer Sandy Ryan also decided to go pro because the additional qualifying tournament that she had hoped to use to qualify was abandoned in favor of a ranking system, in which she ranks too low to make the Games.
Yet while for some the extra year was too long, for others it helped them claim their inclusion. Helen Glover, two-time Olympic coxless pairs champion, retired after Rio 2016 but successfully returned to the British rowing team after rediscovering her love for the sport and her level of fitness during locking.
And it will be interesting to see how much an extra year of preparation could help some British medal hopefuls. UK track cyclists caught up with Dutch riders in several events this past summer – could extra time help them close the gap?
Who are the ones in GB to watch?
Given her consistency and success over the past two years, Dina Asher-Smith is one of the top athletes that UK fans look forward to getting on the podium in Tokyo.
As the current world and European champion in the 200m, it is in this discipline that she will seek to excel. But the 25-year-old will also see opportunities in the 100m as well as the 4x100m relay, in which she also claimed medals at the last world championships.
Staying in the track and field arena, could this be the year of Katarina Johnson-Thompson?
Having initially struggled to wear the heptathlon crown handed down by Jess Ennis-Hill, with some glaring disappointments at the world and Olympic level, Johnson-Thompson now makes it to the Tokyo Games as a world champion – and a true contender. so.
In track cycling, the Kennys, Laura and Jason, could be crowned king and queen of the velodrome. Jason aims to become the most successful British Olympic athlete of all time, if he adds another gold to his current total of six. Meanwhile, Laura is also looking for historic gold medals to improve on her four titles, which could see her match or even surpass her husband’s accomplishments.
And while no gold medal is certain, Adam Peaty needs to get as close as possible. The world record Olympic breaststroke champion has not only dominated the 50m and 100m podiums since the last Olympics, but he has also become determined to break world records in the process.
Among the lesser-known athletes who deserve to be watched are Shauna Coxsey, already multiple bouldering world champion who will participate in the new Olympic sport climbing event, as well as Tom Pidcock, a precocious young cyclist who has already enjoyed success at age in various formats, and who aims to compete by bicycle of Mountain.
Sky Brown and Bombette Martin are even younger who, at 12 and 14 respectively, could be GB’s best hopes for a medal in the first Olympic skateboarding event.
Elsewhere, in judo, Chelsie Giles has shown she can mix it with the best this year with a streak of gold and silver on the Grand Slam circuit, and in weightlifting, Emily Muskett and Emily Campbell have all both won historic European titles for Great Britain. .