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 Tuesday and Friday 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 e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Good afternoon, and welcome to the latest edition of The Globe’s Olympic newsletter.
What to watch at the Tokyo Olympics
A year after its postponement, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics are just two days away from the official opening. Already, soccer and softball events have started.
With a roughly 12 to 16 hour time difference depending on where you live in Canada, watching these Games live isn’t going to be easy.
Fortunately, The Globe has you covered with a comprehensive guide to the Games.
How Team Canada is shaping up
The official opening of the Tokyo Games is two days away. Here’s how Team Canada is looking.
- When Penny Oleksiak became the first Canadian to win four medals at a Summer Olympics, it appeared that she seemed to get faster as the races wore on. She quickly became known for her awe-inspiring finishes. But it was all a mirage. Heading into Tokyo this year, Swimming Canada has ventured deeper than ever into data collection, hoping that new ways of parsing and interpreting races will lead the team back to the podium.
- Canada opened the Olympic women’s soccer tournament Wednesday with a 1-1 draw against host Japan. In her 300th appearance with the Canadian team, Christine Sinclair scored early – her 187th career goal – before Mana Iwabuchi tied the match in the 84th minute. Sinclair is the all-time leading international scorer among men and women. Group play continues on Saturday with Canada facing Chile. The women’s team has won bronze medals in the last two Games. Also Wednesday, Sweden stunned the favoured U.S. team 3-0.
- Canada’s women also played their first softball game on Wednesday, defeating Mexico 4-0 in Fukushima. Jennifer Salling drove in two runs and Sara Groenewegen threw four no-hit innings. The No. 3-ranked Canadians will face the powerhouse U.S. team Wednesday night at 8 p.m. ET. The Americans are the gold-medal favourites, followed by No. 2 Japan.
- Andre De Grasse, now healthy after missing two season with hamstring injuries, will lead the Canadian track and field team at the Games. He’s currently ranked 20th in the 100 metres, but he showed in both the Rio Games and at the 2019 world championships that he has an ability to turn it up on the biggest stages.
COVID-19 infections surge in Tokyo; Soccer players take to their knees to protest racism
The latest information you need to know about Japan, COVID-19 and the Olympics.
Just two days before the opening ceremonies, the host city registered 1,832 new cases of COVID-19. Tokyo is currently under its fourth state of emergency, which doesn’t expire until Aug. 22 and will cover the entire duration of the Games. International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach expressed hope that fans would be allowed to attend events if the situation improves, but a top government health official said that would be impossible.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO), said in Tokyo Wednesday that the Games should go ahead to demonstrate to the world what can be achieved with the right plan and measures amid the pandemic. Speaking to the International Olympic Committee members, Tedros said the world needed the Olympics now “as a celebration of hope.”
Meanwhile, restrictions due to COVID-19 are continuing to rankle Olympic athletes. Ona Carbonell, captain of Spain’s synchronized swimming team, used her Instagram account to complain about the “drastic measures” by Tokyo organizers that prevented her from bringing her 11-month-old son to Tokyo. Athletes could not travel to Tokyo with family members due to pandemic restrictions, but the IOC said last month – after pressure from Canadian basketball player Kim Gaucher and American soccer player Alex Morgan – that nursing mothers would be allowed to bring their babies to Japan. On Wednesday, American swimmer Becca Meyers pulled out of the Paralympics because she isn’t allowed to bring her mother to Tokyo as her personal care assistant. Meyers, who is deaf and blind as the result of a rare genetic disorder, won three gold medals at the last Paralympics.
It was probably no surprise that the first official events of the the Games were also used as a platform for activism. Just before the start of the women’s soccer match between Britain and Chile, players dropped to their knees in a united show of support against racism. Long restricted by the International Olympic Committee, such protests within limited parameters are now permitted at the Games inside the field of play.
Also Wednesday, the IOC confirmed that Brisbane will host the 2032 summer Games, becoming the third Australian city to hold the Olympics after Melbourne in 1956 and Sydney in 2000. Paris will stage the 2024 Games, while Los Angeles has been awarded the 2028 summer Olympics.
What our columnists are saying
“Where we are is in the realm of make-believe. The Tokyo Organizing Committee makes believe that it’s really scared, and we pretend we won’t sneak out to the bars if Dad takes his eye off us for a second. This is why the head of Tokyo 2020, Toshiro Muto, won’t definitively promise that the Olympics are going ahead regardless of where the COVID-19 numbers end up. It’s not because he’s considering cancellation. That ship has launched. It’s because Muto must pretend to consider cancellation, because he is pretending to be scared, while we pretend to take him seriously.” - Cathal Kelly
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Summer Olympic moment
Aug. 16, 2016: Derek Drouin leaps to the top of the podium
Two centimetres was all Derek Drouin needed to win Canada’s first gold medal in the high jump since 1932 – a minimal difference to the casual viewer, but hardly so for jumpers. His 2.38-metre jump, not far from his personal best of 2.40 metres (an exclusive mark in high jumping), beat out Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim, who hit 2.36 metres. Duelling with Barshim and Ukraine’s Bohdan Bondarenko, Drouin soared over the 2.38-metre mark in his first jump, allowing him to watch the two competitors attempt and fail to match the Canadian. His gold was one of four Canada brought home and part of a 22-medal haul in Rio – one of its best outings at a Summer Olympics in history.
Drouin’s years following Rio have been defined more by injuries than medals, problems that will prevent him from competing in Tokyo this year. His first of three Achilles tears came in 2017, holding him back from the world championships, followed by a herniated disc in his neck in 2018 and second Achilles tear in 2019. His most recent came in January and he officially ruled himself out of the Canadian Olympic trials held in late June.
Is there a Canadian Olympic moment you can’t seem to forget? If you do, email us at email@example.com and tell us why.