Athletes Getting Ready, Fans Cancelling Plans For The Tokyo Olympics

Athletes Getting Ready, Fans Cancelling Plans For The Tokyo Olympics

Courtesy of WOWSA, Odaiba Marine Park, Tokyo Bay, Japan.

After a year of lockdowns, quarantines, work-at-home mandates, border closures, social distancing, masking, vaccine development and debate, and many deaths and illnesses throughout the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic, hopes for turning the corner on holding athletic competitions as normally as possible (at least for athletes) seemed to grow most recently.

However, most competitions worldwide still have some sort of limitations on the number of spectators who watched the athletes compete. While the passion for athletics has not diminished even when competitions are held in front of empty stands, the Tokyo Olympics holds a special place in the hearts of amateur and professional athletes at every level.

Standing on the awards podium and hearing one’s national anthem in front of fans is a dream that is held dearly by many. After years and sometimes decades of dedication to the sport, this dream can still be realized – albeit without fans in the stands.

The Tokyo Olympics organizing committee, together with the understanding and approval of the International Olympic Committee, announced that this summer’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics will be held without overseas spectators due to the pandemic. The virtual meeting where the decision was made was attended by International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, Seiko Hashimoto, President of the Tokyo Organizing Committee, International Paralympic Committee Chief Andrew Parsons, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, and Tokyo Olympics Minister Tamayo Marukawa. Overseas fans who already hold event tickets will receive refunds.

The show will go on, as they say, just dramatically different from before.

The Olympics also decided not to accept volunteers from abroad, although this brings up the question as to what will be the decision regarding officials, judges and referees across all the different sports – especially with the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim where there are no experienced Olympic marathon swimming referees who live in Japan or who are Japanese. Not one Japanese official has ever played a role at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, 2012 London Olympics, and 2016 Rio Olympics marathon swimming events, male or female.

It was reported by the Japan Times that Japanese government “will consider ways to permit the entry of volunteers from abroad whose roles are difficult to be replaced by somebody living in Japan, such as those who are capable of speaking less common languages.”

Tokyo is a densely packed metropolitan area with crowded streets, subways and trains. I can understand why a vast majority of its citizens – nearly 50% who are older than 50 [see below] – do not want the Tokyo Olympics to be held this year – or want them cancelled, says Steven Munatones. “If the Olympics were held in Los Angeles – as it is scheduled to be in 2028 – there is no way the local politicians would allow the Games to be held. There are even limitations on youth and high school and college sports in Los Angeles, so in a way, athletes are lucky to have the Games in Tokyo. The Japanese will find a way to host the Games as best as can be conducted. Fortunately, I have an office near Odaiba Marine Park and can speak and read Japanese. So I was planning to be in Tokyo anyway covering different aspects of the Tokyo Olympics so I can see the action of the marathon swim – albeit at a distance. Even without spectators, or even with a small number, the men’s and women’s races in Tokyo Bay will be special and reporting on them from the streets of Tokyo will be fun – and completely different from before.”

59.9 million Japanese out of a population of 126.3 million are over the age of 50 – with very few vaccinated at this time

Top 10 Male Qualifiers to the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim (and their qualifying time):

1. Florian Wellbrock (Germany) 1:47:55.90
2. Marc-Antoine Olivier (France) 1:47:56.10
3. Rob Muffels (Germany) 1:47:57.40
4. Kristóf Rasovszky (Hungary) 1:47:59.50
5. Jordan Wilimovsky (USA) 1:48:01.00
6. Gregorio Paltrinieri (Italy) 1:48:01.00
7. Ferry Weertman (Netherlands) 1:48:01.90
8. Alberto Martinez (Spain) 1:48:02.20
9. Mario Sanzullo (Italy) 1:48:04.70
10. David Aubry (France) 1:48:05.10

Top 10 Female Qualifiers to the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim (and their qualifying time):

1. Xin Xin (China) 1:54:47.20
2. Haley Anderson (USA) 1:54:48.10
3. Rachele Bruni (Italy) 1:54:49.90
4. Lara Grangeon (France) 1:54:50.00
5. Ana Marcela Cunha (Brazil) 1:54:50.50
6. Ashley Twichell (USA) 1:54:50.50
7. Kareena Lee (Australia) 1:54:50.50
8. Finnia Wunram (Germany) 1:54:50.70
9. Leonie Beck (Germany) 1:54:51.00
10. Sharon van Rouwendaal (Netherlands) 1:54:51.10

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