Thursday, January 20

The Pandemic Games kick off in silence and hanging by a thread


With the latent threat of a regrowth of covid-19 that could precipitate a fatal disruption, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics they open this friday, a year after its scheduled date, in the hope that the world’s greatest sporting spectacle, with 10,500 athletes from 204 countries in action, alleviate the psychological burden arising from the pandemic.

For the first time in Olympic history, in enclosures without public so as not to provide facilities coronavirus, the clatter of the nails on the tartan, the splashing of arms and feet in the pool, the labored breathing of the gymnasts in full effort, the instructions of the coaches to their teams, even thick words uttered in moments will be clearly heard. of frustration.

The Games of the 32nd Olympiad have had a startled pregnancy and difficult delivery, but the accumulated enthusiasm of the athletes and the commitment of the IOC and the Japanese organizers to carry out the competition at all costs, in order to minimize the economic loss, have worked a miracle: the show starts under a state of emergency .

A cancellation would lead to losses close to 12.9 billion dollars at a time when the coffers of the IOC, with a deficit of 55 million dollars in 2020, and those of the organizing country are not experiencing their most buoyant moment, hence the invariable response of the IOC on a new postponement will always find the same answer : it is a possibility that is not contemplated.

However, the increase in infections in Japan, and specifically in the Tokyo area, recently induced the director of the Games Organizing Committee, Toshiro Muto, not to completely rule out a last minute cancellation.

The Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, spoke at the IOC Session to express his confidence that the Games will gather the solidarity and determination necessary to end the pandemic and provided a dismal statistical forecast. : more than 100,000 people will die of covid in the world during the Games, which will be – he said – “a celebration of hope”.

The organizers are confident, however, that the trickle of cases – more than 90, to date, among accredited staff – is not so serious as to make a drastic decision.

Two great soccer competitions, the America Cup in Brazil and the Eurocup In several countries of the Old Continent, they have recently come to an end despite the coronavirus outbreaks, and Tokyo 2020 hopes to do the same, taking advantage of the harsh restrictions imposed to prevent the spread of outbreaks.

The participating athletes, who had to go through an ordeal of tests and counter-tests before arriving at the Olympic Village, have to submit a negative covid test performed six hours before competing. If the result is positive, they will be confined for fourteen days, a devastating moral blow to those who struggled for five years to earn their Olympic spot.

It has already happened to the Chilean taekwondo Fernanda Aguirre, a bronze medalist in the 2019 Pan American Games, who has tested positive for covid and, despite being asymptomatic, will not be able to compete next Sunday. It was the first Olympic casualty due to contagion; then other names were added.

Even more serious, for the luck of the Games, would be that the adverse result affected some of the great figures, such as the American gymnast Simone Biles, Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic, Jamaican athlete Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce or American basketball player Kevin Durant.

By way of consolation, those affected would not lose, at least, the results they had achieved up to the moment of the adverse test, so that a qualifier for a final would continue to be considered a finalist even if they could not contest it.

If you love me, leave

To protect themselves against legal claims, the organizers, who raised, to participate in the Games, requirements capable of dissuading the most intrepid, required the participants to sign a document that exempts the organizers from all responsibility “in the event of any type of loss, injury or damage that any accredited person may suffer as a result of their intervention in the Games”.

Lola Flores, the Spanish folk singer, coined a phrase to scare away the fans who, preventing the ceremony, packed the church minutes before the wedding of her daughter Lolita: “If you want me, go away.” The paradoxical expression of La Faraona could also be used as a message from the organizers of the Games to the irreducible who insisted on traveling to Tokyo.

What the atmosphere is not for jokes This is proven by the resignation of the opening ceremony director, Kentaro Kobayashi, following a barrage of criticism for making jokes about the Holocaust in a comedy he staged 23 years ago.

This Friday, the headless opening ceremony, in the old Tokyo National Stadium, remodeled and renamed Olympic for the occasion, grants a truce in media pressure on the pandemic to direct the focus towards the great protagonists of the great sports festival: athletes.

The competition program for the second Japanese Games (the first was in 1964) includes 33 sports, including four newcomers (climbing, surfing, skateboarding and karate) and one, baseball / softball, which came out in 2008 and is now back on the menu.

Bolt’s successor wanted

Tokyo 2020 will be the first Games without the great Olympic icon since Beijing 2008, Usain Bolt, who hung up his spikes after the 2017 London World Cups with eight Olympic gold medals in his backpack.

The Jamaican athlete, current champion of 100 and 200 meters, will have a forced successor in Tokyo and that constitutes one of the great unknowns of the Games, given that the world champion, the American Christian Coleman, is suspended for not being reachable for doping controls three times in twelve months.

Trayvon Bromell, American 100-meter champion and in possession of the seventh best mark of all time (9.77), starts as a favorite, indicated by Bolt himself, to win the Olympic title with the greatest media power of all the Games.

The American gymnast Simone Biles, who hung five medals in Rio 2016 and then took a sabbatical year, faces, with new acrobatic exercises in her repertoire, the challenge of revalidating the individual Olympic title, something that until now has only been achieved by the Russian Larissa Latynina and Czech Vera Caslavska.

Swimming offers the star presence of two Americans: Caeleb Dressell, aspiring to six titles, ready to reclaim the vacant throne after the retirement of Michael Phelps, and Katie Ledecky, a quadruple champion in Rio, whose hegemony in the pool will be threatened by the rising star, the Australian Ariarne Titmus.

The Olympic tennis tournament suffered many casualties, including that of the Spanish Rafael Nadal and that of the Swiss Roger Federer, but will feature the number one in the world, Novak Djokovic. The Serbian aims to achieve an unprecedented achievement, the Golden Slam.

Djokovic has already conquered the top three “bigs” this year (Australia, Roland Garros and Wimbledon). If he wins the Olympic title in Tokyo, in a relatively comfortable tournament for him, and a few weeks later the US Open, he will be the first in history to win the Big Four and the Olympic title in one go.

Visible heads of the sports battalion that goes to the war front in the middle of a pandemic, they will be the true protagonists of the Olympic party. Whether the Tokyo 2020 Games are remembered for their sporting deeds or eaten by the coronavirus will depend on their performance.


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