Going for gold under the cloud of COVID-19 makes the Tokyo Summer Games an Olympics like no other. This newsletter is here to help you make sense of it all, with original stories from Globe reporters in Canada and Tokyo, tracking Team Canada’s medal wins, and past Olympic moments from iconic performances. Tokyo Olympics Update is sent every Friday afternoon in June, every weekday beginning in July, and twice daily during the Games, which run from July 23 to Aug. 8. You can sign up here. Let us know what you think by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Good afternoon, and welcome to the first edition of The Globe’s Tokyo Olympics Update.
Two years ago, Mandy Bujold – one of the most successful and experienced flyweight boxers in the world – took a step back from the sport to become a mother. Soon after giving birth to her daughter, Kate Olympia, the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
When the International Olympic Committee’s boxing taskforce reworked the qualifying structure, it turned to three tournaments in 2018 and 2019 – all when Ms. Bujold was pregnant. Without enough points to qualify, the 33 year-old may not get her chance in Tokyo.
The boxer says the rules that disqualified her are a holdover from an era when many Olympic-calibre athletes would quit their sport when they wanted to become parents.
“I think this is just ancient thinking. We have to move into this century, and say ‘This is happening more and more, so how can we protect these athletes so they can take that time to have a child?’” she said.
How Team Canada is shaping up
The Tokyo Games are 49 days away. Here’s how Team Canada is looking.
- Canada will field its largest delegation of rowers since the 1996 Games in Atlanta after qualifying three more crews on May 16, bringing Rowing Canada’s total to 10 qualified boats.
- After three years of treatment for a brain tumour, the global COVID-19 situation and the inability of Canada to send a full show-jumping team to Tokyo, Eric Lamaze, Canada’s most decorated show jumper, won’t be competing at the Games.
- Ahead of the Athletics Canada Olympic trials, Canadians have been meeting Olympic standards and setting records.
- Without family and supporters allowed to travel to the Games, Canadian Olympic contenders are worried they’ll be alone in Tokyo.
- Mark the dates: Canada’s Olympic swim trials were recently approved to take place in Toronto from June 19 to 23, a mandatory event for Olympic contenders. Meanwhile, the Athletics Canada Olympic and Paralympic trials are set to run June 25 to 27, though athletes don’t have to attend to qualify. Meanwhile, Canada’s women’s soccer team will open the Olympic tournament against Japan on July 21.
‘We are a go’
The chorus of opposition to the Tokyo Olympics has been loud and sustained. Japan’s Prime Minister even said in early May that he’s “never put the Olympics first” and the country’s most senior medical adviser said on Wednesday that the organizers should explain why the Games are going ahead. Meanwhile, 10,000 of the 80,000 volunteers who signed up to help have reportedly quit, though it won’t have an impact on operations because of the lack of foreign fans and scaled-back operations.
Despite the blowback, the only organization that holds the power to shut it down – the IOC – hasn’t budged.
Core to critics’ concerns has been Japan’s ongoing vulnerability to the virus, its hobbled vaccine rollout and the potential for a variant to emerge from the Games. Hospitals in Tokyo are under strain amid a state of emergency, and only 2.7 per cent of the population has been fully vaccinated – with optimistic immunization targets not enough to protect the country’s population by the opening ceremonies.
Now, as the Games near, the financial implications are beginning to bear out. Uncertainty around crowd sizes has sponsors, which paid an extra US$200-million to extend contracts after last year’s postponement, feeling unsure and frustrated about how to proceed with marketing campaigns or events. A top economist said last week that Japan stands to lose US$16-billion if the Olympics were cancelled, but the economic losses would pale in comparison to those if the Games become a superspreader event.
“Barring some Armageddon, of which nobody is aware, there’s no indication of [cancellation]. We are a go,” Canadian lawyer and long-standing IOC member Dick Pound said Wednesday.
What our columnists are saying
Doug Saunders says that if the Olympics want to avoid another Tokyo-sized disaster, they need a permanent home
In a pandemic world, André Picard writes, the Olympics have no business going on
Cathal Kelly joins The Decibel to discuss why the Games will still go on, even in the face of a significant viral threat and widespread disapproval in Japan
Aug. 4, 2012
Rosie MacLennan goes back-to-back gold on the trampoline
While Canada pulled in 18 medals at the 2012 London Olympics, just one athlete came home with a gold medal: Rosie MacLennan. (Weightlifter Christine Gerard was later awarded a gold when the two competitors who finished above her were disqualified.) MacLennan, from King City, Ont., sustained a concussion just three months before the Games, briefly offsetting her spatial awareness and balance in the leadup to the Olympics, and forcing her to scale back her training in a crucial period.
Fully recovered by the Games, she was expected to perform well but didn’t bear the same weight of expectation that a handful of Canadian athletes did. In the women’s trampoline final, MacLennan posted the most difficult routine of the competition, scoring a career-high 57.305.
Competing fourth-last in the final round – ahead of two who’d been tagged as potential gold medalists – MacLennan’s score had to withstand three attempts before claiming the medal. China’s He Wenna, who won gold at the 2008 Beijing Summer Games and one of the two favourites, was on track to win gold in her final routine before tumbling on her last skill. Wenna’s performance was enough to finish with bronze, knocking Karen Cockburn, a Canadian veteran and MacLennan’s close friend, off the podium.
“It’s definitely bitter-sweet because our dream was to be on the podium together, no matter which way,” MacLennan said afterward.
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