Medicine Hat News

Tokyo Games will be unlike any other


From social distancing to careful monitoring to zero tolerance for a positive test.

The Internatio­nal Olympic Committee’s athletes “Playbook” might have been short on specifics more than five months out from the opening ceremonies, but a major takeaway was that the Tokyo Games amid a global pandemic will be unlike any before.

“It’s a really good time to park (expectatio­ns),” said Marnie McBean, the chef de mission of Canada’s Olympic team for Tokyo. “Like I wrote in a message to athletes: This isn’t going to be like any other Games you’ve been to. And in fact, I don’t think you should compare it to any Games, it’s going to be an outlier. And, if you keep comparing it to the days of old, it’s going to be shocking.”

There were no surprises in the Playbook, meant to detail how organizers plan to safely host more than 15,000 athletes, plus the IOC hopes reassure the more than 80 per cent of Japanese residents who said in recent polls the Games should be postponed or cancelled.

The Playbook states that athletes aren’t required to be vaccinated to compete, although the IOC has asked national Olympic committees to meet with their respective federal government­s on procuring athlete vaccinatio­ns.

Canada plans to send a team whether or not athletes have been vaccinated.

“Vaccines would be lovely, right? That would be really nice,” said McBean, a triple Olympic gold medallist in rowing. “But we knew we couldn’t count on them.”

The Playbook states that a safe Games can’t be guaranteed.

“Despite all care taken, we draw to your attention that risks and impacts may not be fully eliminated and that you agree to attend the Olympic and Paralympic Games at your own risk,” it said.

The warning wasn’t surprising said race walker Evan Dunfee, and athletes understand the risks.

“But I can’t imagine many athletes will decide to stay home. For me personally, it is a personal risk I am absolutely willing to take,” said the world bronze medallist.

Dunfee stressed what’s more important is following rules around isolating once he returns home, for the safety of others.

The IOC is in a tough spot, he added, facing opposition from some who believe the Games shouldn’t happen.

“And I think some of the athletes, myself included, are stuck in this position of thinking maybe the Games shouldn’t be happening but at the same time not wanting to give up this opportunit­y that we’ve worked our entire lives for,” Dunfee said.

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