Long and short of the much-awaited Tokyo Olympics


The Tokyo Olympics, which have been delayed by more than a year because of the covid-19 pandemic, finally begin today under a strict covid protocol that includes a ban on spectators. Mint takes a look at what is at stake:

What’s different about the Tokyo Olympics?

Even though the Tokyo Games are taking place in the summer of 2021, they are still referred to as the 2020 Olympics. Covid-19 protocols will be in place and a slew of new events, such as karate, skateboarding, and surfing, will be part of the Games. Baseball and softball will make their return to the Olympics after the 2008 Beijing Olympics. There will be nine new mixed-gender events across seven sports. In total, there will be a record 41 sports. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said women’s participation in Tokyo will be 49%, up from 45% at Rio, a nearly even split with the men.

Why wasn’t the event cancelled this year?

Public sentiment in Japan has been opposed to holding the Games because of fears that it will lead to a spike in cases in the country. The second-largest selling newspaper in Japan, the Asahi Shimbun, has called for the Olympics to be cancelled. However, there are billions of dollars at stake. Japan has officially spent $15.4 billion, but government audits suggest that the amount is twice that much. Also, the host city contract gives the IOC the sole authority to cancel the event. If Japan cancels, it would have to compensate the IOC. Estimates suggest a cancellation could cost the IOC $3-4 billion in lost broadcast rights income.

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Hopes amid the pandemic

Could the Games be cancelled mid-way?

The head of the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee on 20 July did not rule out a last-minute cancellation of the global sporting showpiece. Toshiro Muto said he would keep an eye on the number of cases and hold discussions if necessary. Over 90 people, including athletes, accredited for the Tokyo Games have been tested positive for covid-19 so far.

How is India being represented?

India is sending its largest ever contingent of 228 members, including 127 athletes. But athletes from seven sports, including shooting, badminton, archery, and hockey, will skip the opening ceremony because of covid fears, leaving about 30 in attendance. According to a 21 July report by The Times of India, Haryana and Punjab are leading the way for the country at the Games, with 31 and 19 participants, respectively. Tamil Nadu is sending 11 athletes, while Uttar Pradesh and Kerala are sending 5 athletes each.

Who can get the medals for India?

The hopes are of a first ever double -digit figure, surpassing the best haul of six achieved in 2012. The foremost among the contenders are 15 shooters, Mirabai Chanu in weightlifting, and the archery team led by world number one Deepika Kumari. The boxers are another set of big contenders with world number one Amit Panghal and six-time world champion M.C. Mary Kom in the ranks. In wrestling, Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat seem likely to win. P.V. Sindhu may win her second Olympic medal.

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