By Jamila Cross
Tokyo 2020 is being held in 2021. In spite of last year’s cancellation due to the pandemic, unwavering criticisms and challenges, and the possibility of a complete suspension of the games, the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) in true ‘kaizen’ (continuous improvement) fashion has persevered, adamant that the games would go ahead under the most rigorous Covid-19 protocols, even as Japan continues to struggle to rein in its Covid outbreak ahead of the opening ceremony on Friday, July 23.
As athletes continue to arrive, I wonder what the mood in the Trinidad and Tobago camp is—33 athletes in a range of sporting disciplines who deserve a lot of respect, and support for their commitment, grit, and perseverance to represent the red, white, and black in the midst of a global pandemic.
Suffice to say, none of these world-class athletes have ever had to participate in an Olympic Games such as this, experiencing the exacerbated external forces that have affected training regimes, international competition, and overall preparation for the Olympics since last year.
There have been concerns within and outside of Japan that the Games could become a super-spreader event. Earlier this year, the JOC ruled out the possibility of international fans being in attendance, and one month ago, due to Japan’s state of emergency, the JOC said Tokyo venues will not have spectators—an unprecedented move, according to an International Olympic Committee (IOC) spokesman.
It must be a bittersweet moment for athletes who have qualified for their first games, and those for whom this will be their last. Silence in the stands, nobody to wave to at the podium but the cameras, no lap around the track after winning your 100m.
I sense that it will be a time for teams who are in the Olympic Village to rally around each other, and to provide that much-needed support required to perform at your best.
My personal favorite is to make the podium and earn our first Olympic medal in cycling sensation, Teniel Campbell. She is one of the few Black athletes in professional road cycling who continues to prove that gender diversity and inclusion in all sports is critical to break the entry barriers, especially in those sports where systemic racism is a problem in the highest echelons.
Teniel has broken through many obstacles, and shares in a recent article, “I’m humbled and grounded because I know what it took to get here – and it was not an easy road”.
Ensuring athletes’ safety will be paramount during these games, but one cannot underscore the macroeconomic reality that the cost of cancellation has outweighed the benefits to the world governing body and the JOC.
The contract between the IOC and the host city Tokyo is clear that only the IOC could cancel the event. The IOC is thought to make around 70 percent of its money from broadcast rights, and 18 percent from sponsorship (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-57240044).
The Tokyo Olympics will be a testing ground for coordination and management of mass-participation sporting events during a protracted pandemic. The lessons learned, and best practices will certainly provide critical data points for another upcoming global sporting event, the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, being held for the first time in the Arab World.
As we live in extraordinary times, I wish to extend my support and congratulations in advance to team TTO. For your grit, commitment, and unwavering discipline you are Olympic champions!