By Sharon Robb
TOKYO, Japan, April 13, 2021—The 100-day countdown for the long-awaited, much-anticipated 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games begins Wednesday.
The 32nd edition of the Summer Olympics were delayed from 2020 to 2021 despite growing worry over the pandemic. A cloud of uncertainty still hangs over the Olympics after a number of Japanese regions have reported a spike in coronavirus cases since the public health emergency was lifted on March 22.
In Tokyo and five other regions authorities have limited the number of spectators in sporting venues to a maximum of 5,000 and reduced the opening hours of bars and restaurants. Several Olympic test events have been postponed until early May and late June or cancelled.
Officials have gone ahead planning for the Games this summer despite objections from many fans, media and Japanese citizens.
The Olympics are scheduled to begin July 23 with the Opening Ceremony and last until Aug. 8.
On Tuesday the Olympic torch relay ran through a mostly empty Osaka City Park. Officials re-routed the relay off city streets and barred the public.
The torch relay began three weeks ago in northeastern Japan, attempting to navigate around the pandemic with a total of 10,000 runners across the country and ending at the opening ceremony.
After last year’s postponement, organizers talked of cancelling the relay to save money. But it was never really considered because of the IOC’s largest sponsors including Coca-Cola and Toyota.
The top sponsors paid the International Olympic Committee $1 billion in the last full Olympic cycle (2013-2016). That number is expected to double when the next cycle is completed with the postponed Tokyo Games.
According to a recent Kyodo News poll, 72 percent of Japanese want the Games cancelled or postponed because of the ongoing pandemic and country’s slow vaccine rollout. In a recent Wall Street Journal story, only one percent of Japan’s population has been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Olympic organizers have already taken unprecedented measures including not allowing fans to travel to Japan to watch the Games.
Still, the Olympics and Paralympics are expected to attract 15,400 athletes and thousands of judges, officials, judges, coaches and media even though numbers are expected to be scaled back.
Officials released a 33-page playbook detailing the health and safety protocols that will be in place. There are many guidelines in place for athletes, including tracking, tests and mask mandates. Fans will not be allowed to cheer or sing loudly because of the airborne virus, but are allowed to clap.
Officials have asked that athletes get vaccinated before participating, but say they will not require a vaccination before attending.
South Florida Aquatic Club’s four-time Jamaican Olympian Alia Atkinson, 31, has already qualified for her fifth Olympics in her signature event, 100-meter breaststroke. She will be accompanied by her longtime coach, SOFLO CEO and head coach Chris Anderson, who will also coach the Jamaican swim contingent which features Sarasota resident and Gator Swim Club’s Keanan Dols.
Dols, 22, recently surpassed the “B” qualifying standard of 2:03.26 and set a new national record of 2:02.15 in the men’s 200-meter individual medley at the Pro Swim Series in Mission Viejo, California. In addition to outpacing the Olympic “B” standard, Dols broke his previous national record of 2:03.74 that he set at the International Swim Coaches Association (ISCA) Senior Cup in St. Petersburg on March 24. His time of 2:02.15 ranks as the sixth-fastest time in the event from the Carifta region.
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Aussies Adjusting Body Time Clocks
When Australia’s top swimmers compete in their national championships that begin on Wednesday, the meet will look just like the Olympic format. The meet begins at night with heats in eight disciplines, followed by finals on Thursday morning. The meet ends with finals on Sunday morning. The swimmers are learning to adjust their routines and body clocks looking ahead to the Olympics.
The morning-final, evening-heat pattern is being used in Tokyo. The distinctive format is a demand of American broadcaster NBC, which wants blockbuster medal races scheduled for prime time in the United States (the same approach was taken for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing).
Aussie officials said the format is crucial. The rest of the world is doing the same format in various sports preparing for the time changes. The swim race times posted at this week’s meet will factor into team selection for the Aussies. The country’s Olympic trials are still scheduled for June in Adelaide unless the pandemic plays a role.
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups Anyone? Yes Please
The perennial chocolate and peanut butter powerhouse is partnering with three of the greatest U.S. Olympic athletes, Team USA and swimming: Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky and Caeleb Dressel.
Phelps, Ledecky and Dressel are joining forces to support Big Orange and form the Ultimate Team Reese’s.
Starting with Phelps, a 23-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist and Reese’s lover, will be the face of the Reese’s brand this summer appearing in a new ad campaign highlighting the newest member of the Reese’s family, Reese’s Ultimate Lovers Cup, a new peanut buttery candy version of Peanut Butter Cups without the chocolate.
“As America’s number one chocolate brand, we couldn’t settle for anything other than the best and that’s exactly why we’ve partnered with these legendary U.S. Olympians,” said Margo McIlvaine, Reese’s Brand Manager. “These three know exactly what it takes to be the ultimate, and we welcome them to the Ultimate Team Reese’s.”
Sharon Robb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org