THE 5-RING CIRCUS: Tokyo fires an OpCer director one day prior; IOC’s Coates “orders” Brisbane officials to stay; a few more Covid positives

An empty Olympic Stadium in Tokyo (Photo: Tokyo 2020)

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Updates from, in and around the Games of the XXXII Olympiad: Tokyo 2020:

In calmer times, the day before the Opening Ceremony of an Olympic Games is one of anticipation and excitement. That is not exactly what is happening in Tokyo:

● The Tokyo 2020 organizing committee dismissed Kentaro Kobayashi, a “show director” of the Opening Ceremony on Thursday. Kyodo News reported:

“Kobayashi, 48, was ousted from the post of ‘show director’ in charge of overseeing different segments of the ceremonies after a video clip resurfaced online of him in a comedy act that included the phrase, ‘Let’s play the genocide of the Jews.’”

The clip was from 1998, and Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimototold a press conference that she feels responsible for the organization’s failure to conduct sufficient background checks on the director and apologized for the latest scandal.”

This follows Monday’s resignation of composer Keigo Oyamada, who admitted to bullying children with disabilities in the past. His four-minute original piece for the ceremony has been removed from the show.

Reports indicate that Friday’s ceremony may be held with as few as 950 invited guests in the Olympic Stadium.

This includes elected leaders of about 15 countries, including Emmanuel Macron of France, which will host the 2024 Games in Paris.

Apparently, that will also include Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, Brisbane Mayor Andrew Schrinner and Minister of Sport Richard Colbeck. During a news conference following Brisbane’s election for 2032, Australian Olympic Committee chair and IOC member John Coates – the driving force behind the Brisbane bid – told the officials:

“You are going to the opening ceremony. I am still the deputy chair of the [2032] candidature leadership group. So far as I understand, there will be an opening and a closing ceremony in 2032, and all of you have got to get along there and understand the tradition parts of that, what’s involved in an opening ceremony. None of you are staying behind hiding in your rooms, all right?”

Replied Palaszczuk, “I am not going to offend anyone now that we’ve just been awarded the Games.”

Coates, 71, is no stranger to political infighting, but has promised to step down as Australian Olympic Committee chief in 2022 and will soon be age-limited as an IOC member. His antics drew widespread scorn in Australia and have gotten Brisbane off on a sour note with its own population.

The Russian Olympic Committee announced that from 66-80 athletes would march in the Opening Ceremony, along with six officials. There are expected to be 335 Russian athletes at Tokyo, but many will not be present until later and many athletes who will be competing on Saturday will stay in the Village and rest.

Comment: The usually endless parade of nations may actually be watchable this time.

The Associated Press reported that Rosie Gallegos-Main, a volunteer chiropractor with the USA Wrestling women’s team at its pre-Games training camp posted a notice on her Facebook and Instagram pages on Wednesday that included:

“We went from ‘Flattening the curve in 14 days’ to ‘Going door-to-door to see your papers’ … Gotta admit, I did N-A-Z-I that one coming.”

She apologized, deleted the posts , which were “flagged by both social media platforms for spreading misinformation” according to the AP. The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee’s statement to the news service included:

“The USOPC will work with USA Wrestling to see that she gets that educational resource and understands our organization’s shared global purpose of building a better, more inclusive world through sport.”

A five-page letter signed by more than 150 activists, was posted Thursday, asking the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee to:

“refrain from imposing sanctions on athletes protesting and demonstrating in accordance with internationally-recognized human rights frameworks, as outlined above, in any Olympic/ Paralympic sites, venues or other areas – including the podium. These frameworks protect protests in support of racial and social justice (e.g., kneeling, raising one’s fist). They do not protect hate speech or protests/demonstrations discriminatory in nature.”

It also calls for another review of Olympic Charter Rule 50 (2) after the Beijing Winter Games in 2022 to align more closely with the standards the signatories prefer. Amazingly, the letter undercuts its own argument by including:

“We recognize that the right to freedom of expression, as most human rights, is not absolute. … [and] may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary: (a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others; (b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.”

Don’t look for any action on this from the IOC for a while.

● On the Covid-19 front, the tracking chart from the Tokyo organizers showed 87 total positives from Games personnel, plus another four tracked by municipal governments at which training camps are taking place.

Of the 87 Tokyo 2020 cases, 52 are Japanese residents and 35 are from outside Japan. The leading group continues to be contractors (48 or 55.2%), followed by “Games-concerned personnel” such as coaches and officials (22), then athletes (8), media (5) and Tokyo 2020 staff and volunteers (4).

Agence France Presse reported Wednesday that Guinea has withdrawn its delegation – five athletes – from Tokyo, allegedly due to the coronavirus. The national sports minister, Sanoussy Bantama Sow, wrote “Due to the resurgence of Covid-19 variants, the government, concerned with preserving the health of Guinean athletes, has decided with regret to cancel Guinea’s participation in the Tokyo Olympics.”

AFP noted reports, however, that the real reason for the withdrawal is that the country could not pay for the team to attend.

Hours later, the country announced that the team will go to Tokyo as planned, “after obtaining guarantees from the health authorities.” Right, sure.

Five members of the Czech Olympic squad, including beach volleyball players Ondrej Perusic and Marketa Slukova and table tennis player Pavel Sirucek have tested positive, along with two officials (one of whom is Slukova’s husband and coach, Simon Nausch).

An investigation is now underway into the spread of the virus during a charter flight from Prague to Tokyo during which all five were on board.

Russia reported that European 400 m Medley champ Ilya Borodin (18) has tested positive for Covid and will miss the Games. He is reported as asymptomatic, but will not compete.

Russian Olympic Committee chief Stanislav Pozdnyakov told a news conference that Russia has 193 athletes in Tokyo at present and “There are no cases of COVID-19 infections among Russian athletes in the Olympic Village.”

USA Volleyball confirmed that Tri Bourne will replace Taylor Crabb on the U.S. beach volleyball pair with Jake Gibb and compete beginning on Sunday in Tokyo. Crabb and Gibb were ranked fourth in the FIVB’s Olympic rankings, while Bourne and Trevor Crabb – Taylor’s brother – were ranked 14th.

Taylor Crabb wrote on his Instagram page, “After taking every precaution, getting vaccinated and following protocols, I have tested positive for COVID-19. I’m symptom-free, thankfully, but deeply disappointed to not be able to join Jake on the sand and compete as a member of Team USA.”

According to the Beach Volleyball Database, Bourne and Gibb have never been paired together in tournament play before.

● In weightlifting, the head of the Russian Weightlifting Federation, Maxim Agapitov – the
1997 World Champion at 91 kg – has been denied accreditation to the Tokyo Games by the IOC and has filed an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

In November 2020, the IOC noted its concern over the election of Agapitov to a second term as head of the Russian federation and his intention to run for the presidency of the European Weightlifting Federation in 2021. Why? As the IOC noted:

“When Agapitov was an athlete, he tested positive in 1994 and was banned for two years.”

Agapitov says he is entitled to be accredited as part of the IWF delegation as a member of its Executive Board; he is also the interim President of the European Weightlifting Federation as Turk Hassan Akkus stepped down over allegations of doping violations in the latest International Testing Agency report.

A hearing was scheduled to be have been held on Thursday (22nd).

World Anti-Doping Agency ● WADA will be getting some U.S. government money after all.

Richard Baum, a Senior Policy Advisor at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, told a Congressional committee that $1.60 million of the $2.93 million in dues expected from the U.S. will be paid.

“We believe half the payment is appropriate. There have been some good conversations in WADA about reform, but we still believe that in order to be comfortable with making the full payment, we’d like to see additional steps forward.”

The Trump Administration had withheld payment and filed a report with Congress that essentially demanded that U.S. representation on WADA’s Executive Committee take into account its financial support of the organization. WADA has been in the process of enacting several governance reforms, especially in athlete representation.

Games of the XXXVI Olympiad: 2036 ● If you think that all of the above has soured countries on future hosting of the Games, forget it.

Indonesian Olympic Committee chief Raja Sapta Oktohari said, “We will not back down and will continue to fight for the 2036 Olympics.” The country can point to the staging of the mammoth Asian Games in 2018 as proof of its abilities.

India, Qatar, Korea and Hungary were also in discussions with the IOC at the time when the very advanced Brisbane was singled out by the IOC’s Future Hosts Commission. Germany has also shown interest, but dropped out of the 2032 effort and would likely next target 2040. London Mayor Sadiq Khan has also promoted a fourth Games in the British capital, during his re-election campaign in the spring.

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