Delayed Games ‘still going to be a spectacle of sport’

Volunteer training being done online at the Tokyo 2020 headquarters last week. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Volunteer training being done online at the Tokyo 2020 headquarters last week. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Today marks 100 days until the Tokyo Olympics.

Every Olympics is different from the next, but Tokyo will really stick out from the pack.

For a start it is a year late. We have Covid-19 to thank for that.

And the clock is ticking down on the Olympics at the same time as a resurgence of the virus in Japan.

There is widespread opposition within Japan to the event going ahead. But it appears the show will go on, albeit with some serious restrictions.

International spectators will not be allowed to enter Japan for the event and domestic crowds could potentially be banned as well.

Athletes may have to perform in mostly empty stadiums. And the Olympic village may more closely resemble a stay in MIQ than a spring break party.

David Gerrard.
David Gerrard.
Former New Zealand Chef de Mission David Gerrard is going to Tokyo for the event as part of the medical team for international swimming body Fina.

It is his understanding athletes will only be allowed into Japan five to seven days before their event and will have to relinquish their spot in the Olympic village 48 hours after competing.

"The culture, the mood and the feeling at the Olympic Village won’t be the same," he said.

"But I have little doubt the competition will be as fierce as ever. They have been hanging out for an extra year for this."

Former cyclist Alison Palmer (nee Shanks) went to two Olympics (Beijing and London) and treasured her experience.

"It will be a different experience, but it is still going to be a spectacle of sport and that is really what they are going to have to focus on," Palmer said.

The 38-year-old, who claimed world championship gold in the individual pursuit in 2009 and 2012 and Commonwealth Games gold in 2012, is on the New Zealand Olympic Committee Athletes' Commission.

It is her role to advocate for athletes. It has been a trying time with the uncertainly around the event.

"I don’t envy the position these athletes have been in. It has been really tough.

"But there has been a lot of focus on athlete wellbeing and there will continue to be."

As for what the Olympic village will be like, Palmer said a lot of the details were still emerging.

"But I don’t think there will be many selfies taken rubbing up against your favourite sports star.

"Social distancing is something we will have to get used to again because as Kiwis we have had the privilege of not having to do that."

Palmer said there was likely to be restrictions on how many people can gather in the food hall and there "will be a lot of protocol like daily temperature testing and a lot of additional admin just to operate in the village".

Veteran sports commentator Keith Quinn has been to 10 Olympics and said it was hard to imagine what Tokyo might be like.

"It was great to stand on the corner outside the Olympic village gates and see the whole world go by," he said.

"All of them in different colours and different tracksuits but all of them there hoping to do their best for their country and themselves."

Sport, he said, had a wonderful ability to unite people no matter the challenges.

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