Once Kiwis are in action, it’ll be hard not to care

They are happening, whether we like it or not. The Tokyo Olympics officially begin with the opening ceremony on Friday night but the action actually starts tonight with women’s football.

Jeff Cheshire comes up with five key questions as the Games begin.

A special message is embroidered into the pockets of the jackets that will be worn by the New...
A special message is embroidered into the pockets of the jackets that will be worn by the New Zealand Olympic athletes in Friday's opening ceremony. PHOTO: NZOC

Will anyone care?

Yes, there are many more important things happening in the world right now. Yes, this has been an incredibly low-key Games build-up. And, yes, there are plenty of ethical questions around whether this sports event should even be happening. But when New Zealand is competing for a gold medal, it is hard to imagine there will not be the usual hype around a Kiwi performing on a world stage.

What difference will no crowds make?

It is difficult to imagine the Olympics with no fans. But, 18 months ago, it was also difficult to imagine sport with no fans. It seemed weird at first. Then it became normal — to the point it almost feels strange seeing full arenas and stadiums overseas again. It may impact on the athletes who like to play to the crowd, or those who get their energy from the fans. But, realistically, this is no different from what we have experienced for over a year now.

How much impact will Covid-19 have?

It essentially shut down the whole world last year, so to say Covid-19 could ravage these Olympics is hardly a stretch. Protocols are in place and every precaution will be taken. Hopefully, that will limit any spread of the virus. Only so much can be done, though — and we have already had cases of Olympians testing positive. It is not inconceivable whole sports could be impacted and medal contenders may be left unable to compete.

Who will the stars be?

Usain Bolt has gone. So has Michael Phelps. For the past three Games, much of the focus has been around them. So who replaces them? American gymnast Simone Biles appears poised to take over the mantle, while American swimmer Katie Ledecky will be the biggest name in the pool. On the track, Jamaican sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce will look to add a third 100m gold medal, while Trayvon Bromell is a favourite in a wide open men's 100m field.

How many medals will New Zealand win?

Ah, that old chestnut. Because, as we know, it is all about the medals — and getting that sweet, sweet high-performance funding. New Zealand won nine medals (three gold) at Beijing 2008, 13 medals (six gold) at London 2012, and a record 18 medals (four gold) at Rio 2016. So, the jump in total medals was four from 2008 to 2012, and five from 2012 to 2016 — meaning we will win 24 at Tokyo? Hmm, possibly not. Earlier this month, the bookies tipped seven New Zealand gold medals. Associated Press has just done its full predictions, and is tipping our team to claim EIGHT gold medals, five silver and four bronze, for a total of 17. It seems clear anything fewer than 16-17 total will be judged a mild disappointment.





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