Fear of missing out keeps athletes onside for Tokyo

FILE PHOTO: Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games mascot Miraitowa poses with a display of the Olympic symbol after an unveiling ceremony of the symbol on Mt. Takao in Hachioji, west of Tokyo, Japan, April 14, 2021. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/Pool

Ten weeks before the start of the Olympics, Tokyo remains in a state of emergency, 60% of Japanese do not want the Olympics to go ahead, and only about 3% of them have been vaccinated for COVID-19.

Yet the message from the International Olympic Committee, local organisers and the Japanese government has been consistent — full speed ahead to the opening ceremony on July 23.

Their stance might appear counter-intuitive to those still struggling with daily deaths and hardship caused by the pandemic, but there has been a noticeable lack of dissent from the sporting community.

That is a contrast to last year when the voices of athletes and sports officials were at the forefront of a groundswell of opinion that led to a 12-month delay for the Games.

With IOC President Thomas Bach having made it clear another postponement is not an option, cancellation would be the only alternative to proceeding.

That, according to Olympic swimming gold medallist Rebecca Adlington, would be “devastating” for athletes.

“The athletes dedicate their lives to something that only happens every four years, it’s now been five and if it got cancelled, (they) will have to wait another three,” the Briton told Reuters.

“That’s thousands of athletes that will miss out on the opportunity to represent their country and win medals. It’s been five years of hard work, pushing their body to the limit.”

IOC data shows that around 80% of athletes only appear in one Olympics during their careers — careers that in some sports will be done and dusted in the eight years between the 2016 Rio Games and the 2024 gathering in Paris.

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