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Overshadowed by Covid-19, Olympic athletes are left to bring light to troubled Tokyo 2020

Tokyo 2020 will host about 11,000 athletes — representing greater than 200 nations — and they are going to be staying in 21 residential buildings.

However, not all of those athletes will probably be in Tokyo for the entire length of the Games. Organizers say athletes will probably be anticipated to arrive within the Olympic Village 5 days prior to their competitors and depart a most of two days after.

Even in order that presents a big logistical headache for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the native organizing committee.

Added to that’s the longstanding resistance to staging the Olympics among the many Japanese public.

“The latest polls continually present 60 to 80% Japanese public are opposing the Games,” Satoko Itani, affiliate professor of sports activities, gender and sexuality at Kansai University in Japan, tells CNN Sport.

“Their principal concern is Covid-19, however there may be additionally an growing frustration and anger in the direction of the attitudes and obtrusive disrespect to individuals’s lives right here by the IOC, the Japanese authorities, and the organizing committee.”

When contacted by CNN Sport, the IOC referenced president Thomas Bach’s feedback at a press convention in Tokyo final Saturday: “Even in Japan, there was by no means 100% help of the Olympics Games … that is a part of democracy, you’ll all the time have completely different opinions,” stated Bach.

He later added that he wished to give the general public confidence within the organizers’ “strict Covid measures.”

The Tokyo 2020 organizing committee informed CNN Sport that the Games will probably be “particularly significant as a message of solidarity and coexistence.”

“The world is going through unprecedented challenges together with Covid-19,” it stated. “This is a chance to present the world the approaches that town of Tokyo and the nation of Japan have taken to fixing these issues.”

‘If you possibly can’t execute the plan, then the plan isn’t any good’

Thursday noticed Tokyo file 1,979 new Covid circumstances, the best since January 15, and as of Thursday, there have to this point been 91 constructive circumstances linked to the Games as these arriving in Tokyo bear a rigorous testing program.

“The frequent testing goes to imply that we’re going to proceed to see circumstances as they emerge, which is the best way the system ought to work,” Tara Kirk Sell, a former Olympic swimmer for the USA and now assistant at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, tells CNN Sport of organizers’ plans to comprise the virus.

“The actual query that continues to be is: will these measures be put in place in a means that makes them work? It’s all about implementation. If you possibly can’t execute the plan, then the plan isn’t any good.”

Earlier in July, a choice was made not to have spectators at venues in Tokyo and several other different prefectures, whereas 85% of athletes collaborating have been vaccinated towards Covid-19.

A journalist sits at the Covid-19 testing area of the Olympic media center in Tokyo.

A complete host of countermeasures have been put in place, akin to guidelines round masks sporting, private hygiene, social distancing in and round venues and the Olympic Village — the place most of athletes are accommodated — and an app to log the well being standing of attendees.

Athletes have strict arrival and departure dates round their occasions and may solely depart the village to go to Games venues and different restricted areas. Media commitments have additionally been diminished.

Bach has called Tokyo the “best ever prepared city” to host the Games, and that organizers have spared no effort in ensuring the Games may be held safely and securely.

But public considerations stay.

“The unfold of the virus exterior the ‘bubble’ due to the Olympics has already begun,” provides Itani. “Given the Delta variant is changing into the dominant pressure in Tokyo, this may rapidly escalate.”

Some athletes are additionally having to come to phrases with the devastating information of a constructive check, both earlier than or after arriving for the Games.

“I’m heartbroken … my Olympic journey ends right here,” Dutch skateboarder Candy Jacobs wrote on Instagram this week after testing constructive in Tokyo. “I’m feeling wholesome and have achieved all the pieces in my energy to forestall this state of affairs and took all of the precautions.”

‘Virtual cheering’

For athletes competing, the Games will clearly have a really completely different complexion in contrast to others, most prominently due to the absence of followers.

Those likely to make headlines over the next 16 days embrace American gymnast and defending Olympic champion within the particular person all-around, Simone Biles, American swimmer and five-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky, and Japanese tennis star and four-time grand slam winner Naomi Osaka.
Simone Biles trains ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Games at Ariake Gymnastics Center on July 22.
In athletics, there was a string of recent world data within the build-up to Tokyo, together with Karsten Warholm’s within the 400-meter hurdles, Ryan Crouser’s within the shotput, and Letesenbet Gidey’s within the 10,000-meter, which bettered Sifan Hassan’s world file from two days beforehand.

Skateboarding, karate, sport climbing and browsing have all been newly added to the Olympic program in Tokyo, whereas baseball and softball are returning.

The absence of spectators, which would be the case at 97% of competitions, is an unprecedented incidence on the Olympics, with “digital cheering” and a display screen for followers to ship in selfies and messages getting used as an alternative.

Takeshi Niinami, CEO of Japanese beverage firm Suntory, told CNN Business that the choice to bar spectators will lead to an “huge” financial loss, whereas Itani warns that the Games will depart Japan “billions of {dollars}” in debt.

Athletes could have grown used to Covid-19 countermeasures like repeated testing and venues with out followers, each of which have been in place at sporting occasions all through the pandemic. The circumstances are possible to have an effect on all opponents otherwise.

“The factor for athletes is absolutely to attempt to stick to your routine and stick to your course of,” says Sell, who received a silver within the ladies’s 4×100-meter medley relay on the 2004 Olympics.

“I feel that there will probably be issues which will throw individuals off. Not having a crowd goes to be unusual for lots of people, however for others, it could simply be a scarcity of distraction and having the ability to focus extra intently on their occasion. We’ll have to see the way it works out.”

As for a number of the athletes who will not be at this yr’s Olympics, there will probably be notable absentees within the tennis competitors with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal each pulling out by way of accidents; Coco Gauff had to withdraw after testing constructive earlier than touring to Tokyo, whereas Serena Williams has determined not to compete.

Some sports activities, together with baseball, softball, soccer and capturing, have taken place prematurely of Friday, the day of the opening ceremony.

After that, occasions come thick and quick. For the subsequent 16 days, it is going to be down to the athletes to attempt to bring light to what has been a troubled Olympics with a sophisticated and protracted buildup.

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