Tokyo Olympics: Different shades of sports amid pandemic
From the cost of hosting Olympics to advice by medical experts and Toyota deciding not to run Games related advertisements on TV, here are some interesting facts about the Tokyo Olympics
COVID-19 cases surge
Medical experts had insisted that the daily infection rate in Tokyo would have to fall below 100 for the city to safely hold the Olympics. But with cases of infection surging and an increasing number of visiting athletes, journalists, officials and hotel staff reporting positive, there is fresh uncertainty just ahead of the opening ceremony. IOC had of course claimed there was nothing to fear. IOC president, Thomas Bach, bullishly claimed “the risk for the other residents of the Olympic village and the risk for the Japanese people is zero”. But people are understandably wary.
Almost one-third of Japan’s 126.3 million population is over 65 years of age and not all of them have been vaccinated against the virus yet. A little under two months ago, four per cent of the population had received both their jabs, although the figure is now nearer 20%.
The cost of hosting the Games
Tokyo lost approximately $150 million on its unsuccessful bid for the 2016 Olympics and spent approximately $75 million on its successful 2020 bid. Beijing had spent $42 billion on hosting in 2008. Athens spent $15 billion in hosting the 2004 Olympics and Greeks are still paying taxes to pay for it. Tokyo, despite severely truncating arrangements, is still spending US $15 billion in hosting the Games, over $2.4 billion because the Games were postponed in 2020 due to the pandemic. But although being held in 2021, the Tokyo Games are still held to be the 2020 Games so as not to disrupt the four-year cycle in which the Games are held with the 2024 Games scheduled to be held in Paris.
No-sex beds at the village
Following reports that beds in the Games village in Tokyo were made of cardboard and would not hold the weight of a couple, it was confirmed that the beds can actually support up to 441 pounds, more than two times the weight of an average American. A Japanese bedding company, Airweave, is providing Olympic athletes with 18,000 beds and mattresses made of polyethylene. The cardboard beds were made to be both comfortable and sustainable, and will be recycled into paper products after the Games, with the mattress components recycled into new plastic products. This will be the first time in Olympic and Paralympic history that all beds and bedding are made almost entirely from renewable materials.
The fastest man on earth
American Trayvon Bromell is hot favourite to take Usain Bolt’s 100m title in Tokyo. He is the fastest in the world this year with the best timing of 9.77 seconds. Bolt’s Olympic record is 9.63 seconds set in 2012 London Olympics. The Indian record is held by Amiya Kumar Mallik with 10.26 seconds while in the women’s category Dutee Chand is the fastest in India with 11.17 seconds.
But this time the most glamorous track event is mired with controversy over the new spiked shoes by Nike that US athletes will use. Bolt, the 100m and 200m world record holder and eight-time Olympic champion competed in Puma spikes throughout his career. He is upset that new shoe technology could give unfair advantage to athletes. Veteran Jamaican sprint coach Stephen Francis has admitted that faster times are being clocked in Nike’s new sprint spikes.
“Based on anecdotal evidence and based on the fact that you have people who never would have run as fast as they are running, I suspect that there may be a point, but there is no scientific basis to make that point,” Francis said. Anyone can benefit from Nike’s technology based on the rules set by World Athletics. “We’re just smarter about how we engineer and assemble them,” Nike said in a smug statement.
Toyota backs off
Toyota, one of the biggest sponsors of the Olympics, decided not to run Games related advertising on TV because of lukewarm public interest. Toyota’s chief executive, Akio Toyoda, and other senior executives also announced they would not attend the opening ceremony. Toyota had planned to showcase its driverless cars at the Games and had designed robots for the new Olympic stadium that, among other things, could take orders and then bring food and drinks to the spectators.
Guide Book for Russians
Russian athletes, reported Russian newspaper Vedomosti, have been provided with a guide book to deal with pesky reporters asking questions on doping, Black Lives Matter (BLM) and other issues. On BLM the athletes are advised to say that supporting the movement is a personal choice but “the Olympics in any case should not become a platform for any kinds of protests or gestures”. On sexual harassment, the suggested response was: “I have never encountered it in my career but I know that this problem exists in many countries.”