Olympic Boycotts, Real And Possible
The Tokyo Olympic news this week ranged from the uplifting to the unknown.
On the inspirational side of the equation, Rikako Ikee, a 20-year-old Japanese swimmer who was diagnosed with leukemia in 2019 and has been out of competition for two years, qualified for the Japanese Olympic team at its Olympic Swimming Trials and literally overnight lifted the excitement of the Japanese nation for the Tokyo Olympics. The overall negative mood of the Japanese populace shifted as as result of her dramatic, well-documented comeback.
Ikee qualified for the 4×100 medley relay in the Tokyo Olympics by winning the 100-meter butterfly event in 57.77 seconds. Her comeback heralds back to the precedence set by Maarten van der Weijden at the 2008 Beijing Olympic 10K Marathon Swim where the Dutch leukemia survivor won a gold medal [see photo above].
While Ikee will participate in the Games, North Korea announced that it will not due to the COVID-19 pandemic. North Korea is the first country to withdraw from this year’s delayed Tokyo Games.
The United States hinted at boycotting the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games, but few details followed.
In another change due to the pandemic, the Olympic water polo test event scheduled for this weekend in Tokyo was cancelled because travel restrictions affecting sports officials.
Similarly, the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim qualification event scheduled for May in Fukuoka was cancelled, dealing a major blow to aspiring Olympic marathon swimmers. But there are plenty of alternatives including the site of the 2017 FINA World Championships in Lake Balaton, Hungary.
Earlier, parents, friends, family members, supporters and Olympic fans outside of Japan learned that they would not be allowed to enter venues. Also, most foreign Olympic volunteers will also be barred, although some translators or officials with special skills may still be invited under special entry rules.
But further changes are still expected to be announced including restricting officials, sponsors and media as a pandemic countermeasure.
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