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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

Good evening, and welcome to the latest edition of The Globe’s Olympic newsletter.

For athletes in Tokyo, what will an Olympics without cheering, hugs or talking at dinner be like?

Security guards stand at the entrance to the Olympic Village to be used during the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, on the sidelines of a media tour of the Village Plaza and Olympic Village in Tokyo on June 20, 2021. (Photo by Behrouz MEHRI / AFP) (Photo by BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP via Getty Images)


With Tokyo under a state of COVID-19 emergency, athletes are forbidden to do a lot of things that are normally part of the camaraderie of the Games – and when they compete, no spectators will see their moments of triumph. Only silence and solitude at meals. And only clapping – no cheering or singing – on the field of play.

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The Olympics are supposed to be a showcase for athletic achievement, and organizers have pinned their hopes on an international event that can both salve and stimulate a world crawling out of a pandemic. But The Globe’s Nathan VanderKlippe writes that the Games have also become a platform for the strange state of the world at the moment and the intensity of COVID-19 anxiety that remains – particularly in Japan.

The decision to proceed with the Olympics this summer after postponing in 2020 was controversial, not least among a Japanese public that remains deeply opposed to holding such a large event in the midst of a pandemic. As the opening ceremony draws near, here’s a look at what’s at stake in an Olympics almost certain to be remembered as the COVID Games.

How Team Canada is shaping up

The Tokyo Games are four days away. Here’s how Team Canada is looking.

  • Women’s basketball player Miranda Ayim and men’s rugby sevens player Nathan Hirayama have been named Canada’s flag-bearers for the opening ceremony. It will be the third and final Games for Ayim, who announced she would be retiring after Tokyo. Hirayama is co-captain of Canada’s men’s rugby sevens team, which is making its Olympic debut in Tokyo and starts play Sunday.
  • Photos of a four-year-old Melissa Humana-Paredes holding an Olympic medal gave early clues about what direction her life would take. Ahead of the games she talked about the role her father, Hernan Humana – who coached Canadians John Child and Mark Heese to bronze in Atlanta in 1996 when beach volleyball made its Olympic debut – played in her journey to this moment.
  • It’s been five years since Penny Oleksiak smashed the 100-metre freestyle Olympic record and became Canada’s youngest gold medallist at the age of 16. In the lead up to Tokyo’s summer games, many are asking if she can top her 2016 performance. To those people Oleksiak says: “I am someone to watch – don’t count me out,” The Globe’s Rachel Brady writes.
  • Women’s soccer coach Bev Priestman wants her two-time bronze medal winning team to climb the podium, while captain Christine Sinclair looks to add to her world-record career total of 186 goals. The eighth-ranked Canadians play their first game on July 21 against No. 10 Japan.
  • Long before COVID-19 became the biggest threat to the Tokyo Olympics, the top concern was the heat. Richmond, B.C., race walker Evan Dunfee’s perfect recipe of talent, training, strategy and science will help him handle the high temperatures. By studying his core body temperature through the use of high-tech, computerized pills, Dunfee knows at what temperature his body starts to break down, and the paces he can push before he gets to that point.

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Athletes living in the Olympic Village test positive for COVID-19

People pose for photos with the Tokyo 2020 Olympic logo on Katase Higashihama Beach, Japan July 18, 2021. REUTERS/Edgar Su

EDGAR SU/Reuters

The latest information you need to know about Japan, COVID-19 and the Olympics.

Two South African soccer players became the first athletes inside the Olympic Village to test positive for COVID-19, and other cases connected to the Tokyo Games have also been confirmed, highlighting the herculean task organizers face to keep the virus contained while the world’s biggest sports event plays out. U.S. tennis star Coco Gauff has also tested positive for the coronavirus, forcing her to pull out of the Games.

Tokyo 2020 sponsor Toyota will not run Olympics-related TV commercials amid lacklustre public support for the Games, with two-thirds of Japanese doubting organizers can keep the Games safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a local media poll. As The Globe’s Simon Houpt writes, official Olympics sponsors face an especially fraught environment, with large swaths of the globe still paralyzed by the pandemic and enormous uncertainty over how receptive people will be to traditionally upbeat marketing messages that tap into nationalistic sentiments.

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Keigo Oyamada, a Japanese composer working on the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony, has resigned after coming under fire for bullying classmates, including those with disabilities, during his childhood.

A patchwork of dos and don’ts is accompanying Russia’s athletes at the games, restricting what they can wear and how results will be displayed, attributed to the ROC, or the Russian Olympic Committee. These are the latest consequences stemming from the Games’ longest-running doping saga. Separately, the Court of Arbitration for Sport has dismissed cases against Russian swimmers Alexandr Kudashev and Veronika Andrusenko after they had been suspended for suspected anti-doping rule violations, clearing them to compete in Tokyo.

Ottawa still hasn’t decided if it will be sending a delegation to cheer on Canada’s athletes at the games. The Heritage Department say it expects to make a decision closer to the opening ceremonies.

What our columnists are saying

“The Olympics aren’t here yet, but Olympic COVID-19 already is, and no one seems all that bothered.” - Cathal Kelly

“The question of whether Vancouver could accommodate another Games is one thing ... The more important question is whether the city and region should bid.” - Madeleine Orr and Aileen McManamon

Keep your Opinions sharp and informed. Get the Opinion newsletter. Sign up today.

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Olympic moment

Canadian Derek Drouin celebrates after clearing 2.38m during the men's high jump finals at Rio Olympics August 16, 2016. (John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

Aug. 11, 2012: A step on the line takes Canada’s men’s 4x100 relay to heartbreak from bronze

One moment, Canada’s men’s 4x100-metre relay team could see their names in third place on the Olympic scoreboard. The next, the two dreaded letters “DQ” sat beside the four-man team’s names as they shifted to the bottom of the leaderboard.

Winning bronze, having crossed the finish line just more than a second behind Jamaica and the United States, would have been the team’s first podium finish in more than a decade. But Canada’s third runner, veteran Jared Connaughton, stepped on the line as he rounded the final corner to pass it off to anchor Justyn Warner. The rule, which disqualifies any runner for a single step on the track lane, had been implemented 20 years earlier, before which athletes were disqualified if they made three consecutive steps on a lane line. The team appealed the ruling but it was quickly overruled.

“We showed the world we’re one of the best relay teams in the world. One step away. But it’s sports,” Connaughton said.

Can you think of a Canadian Olympic moment you can’t seem to forget? If you can, email us at and tell us about it.

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