Tokyo 2020: A Desperate COVID Olympics

Events of the 32nd Olympiad commenced today in Tokyo, Japan, two days to the official opening ceremony on Friday, 23rd July 2021. The Baseball and Soccer matches set the ball rolling in these unique games which were moved from 2020 to this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nigeria is joining over 200 members of the Olympic family with athletes in fewer events than she usually takes part in. It is no longer news that both of Nigeria’s male and female soccer teams did not qualify for the games and this may likely take some shine from the interest of Nigerians who regard soccer or football as the king of sports.

Over 11,000 athletes from 205 National Olympic Committees will compete in Tokyo with around 85 percent vaccinated against Covid-19.

Vice-President Osinbajo at the launch of Team Nigeria Olympic Kit

Before the full Nigerian delegation departed for Tokyo, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, on behalf of President Buhari, unveiled Team Nigeria’s 2021 Olympic Kit and attended the send forth ceremony for the athletes at the State House Banquet Centre, Abuja on 12th July, 2021.

Table tennis icon Aruna Quadri is the captain of Team Nigeria to the summer Games and he will be be assisted by the captain of the women basketball team, Adaora Elonu. Lucy Ejike who will be competing in the Para Powerlifting event will Captain Team Nigeria to the Paralympics Games coming up from Tuesday, August 24 to Sunday, September 5.

Commonwealth wrestling medalist Odunayo Adekuroye will be the flag bearer during the opening ceremony, while African record holder in the long jump, Ese Brume will carry the flag during the closing ceremony match past.

Team Nigeria will compete in 10 Sports at the Olympics and four Sports in the Paralympics. Weightlifting has been excluded following the failure of its athletes to meet the standard.

Altogether, 60 athletes will represent Nigeria in the Games between July 23 and August 8.

Nigerian athletes are taking part in the following events:

  1.  ARTISTIC GYMNASTICS (One Athlete)
  2. ATHLETICS (6 men and 13 women)
  3. BADMINTON (Two men and One woman)
  4. BASKETBALL (12 Men & 12 Women)
  5. CANOE SPRINT (One male)
  6. ROWING (One female)
  7. SWIMMING (One)
  8. TABLE TENNIS (Four players)
  9. TAEKWONDO (One female)
  10. WRESTLING (Five)

The Olympics is the highest level of national sport representation and sportsmen and women do all they can to become Olympians. However, because of the pandemic, doubts have been cast over the success of the games because of the increasing number of top sportsmen and women who have been dropping out of the games.

Most of those refusing to attend have put forward excuses of injuries or COVID-19 infections. Many people said there should be no need to blame those dropping out. With the way the pandemic has been spreading in Japan, many athletes are reluctant to expose themselves and their families to the danger of multi-event games in these pandemic times.

Top sportsmen men like tennis stars Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal say they are injured. Even Novak Djokovic waited till the last minute to make up his mind to go. British numbers one in male and female tennis, Adams and Johanna Konya say they have been infected. Wimbledon men’s finalist Matteo Berrettini did not waste time last week in deciding not to go. The stand of tennis players is considered strange because there is an event that does not necessarily involve body contact, unlike team events like soccer and basketball, and even combat sports like boxing, martial arts and wrestling in which participants have to grapple and touch each other as a matter of course.

Some athletes are said to be hesitant to go because they will be competing in empty stadia, but they had known about the Japanese government rules on crowd for some time.

Tokyo is currently under a state of emergency occasioned by coronavirus which has surged in the last couple of months and organisers have agreed that the Games will be held without spectators as Tokyo battles rising numbers of coronavirus infections. The state of emergency went into effect on Monday July 12 and lasts to Aug. 22. This means that the summer games opening on Friday July 23 up till August 8, will be held entirely under emergency measures. The Paralympics open on August 24 and it is not yet confirmed if the state of emergency will be extended to cover the Paralympics period.

There have already been announcements of athletes who have turned positive after arriving in Tokyo and they have to go into isolation. Such athletes could miss their events if they do not become positive before their scheduled days. There are questions of how they became positive and who transmitted the virus to them if most of them were already vaccinated.

Paralympics will take place from August 24 to September 5.

Some of these occurrences help to play into the hands of those who did not want the Olympics to hold in the first place. There is no doubt that many of them have points in their argument. If the hosting is for economic reasons, it is doubtful if the Japanese people can still get the maximum benefit that was expected in the first place. From all indications, this is turning out to be the most expensive Games in history, with a total organizing cost of $15 billion.

An Olympic Games without tourism is not the usual – closed bars, restaurants and night clubs will be very unusual indeed.  But COVID-19 cases of 800,000 and 14,800 deaths call for very strict management protocols, to curb a daily infection of over 1,000 that has become the normal for Tokyo alone.

Several polls in recent times still showed strong opposition to hosting the games, even with it just around the corner and with the government pushing on with it. Many people have still been suggesting another postponement or outright cancellation of the games because they felt uneasy with it in the middle of the pandemic.

Well, Games of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics have commenced.  Let us see how much the world can enjoy the events, without causing more stress and harm to the already stressed world.

The next Olympic Games, the 33rd Olympiad, are scheduled for Paris, France in 2024.

 

IMAGE CREDIT: Olympics.com

 

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