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Tokyo Olympics

The Tokyo Olympics are just around the corner. It looks and feels different from any other Olympic Games in the past, but it’s here. It’s finally here.

More than 11,300 athletes from 207 countries will compete over the next few weeks, vying for the medals they have worked so hard for.

When the Games were postponed in March 2020, organizers said the Olympic flame “could be the light at the end of the tunnel”. The metaphorical tunnel is still being traversed as the Covid 19 pandemic continues to ravage the world, but Friday’s opening ceremony offered a glimpse of that light.

“I think it will be a moment of joy and relief when they enter the stadium, especially for the athletes, because I know how much they have longed for this moment,” IOC President Thomas Bach said.

“Then they can finally be there and enjoy the moment in a very special way.”

Olympic Games in the midst of a pandemic

Masks, quarantine, saliva testing. There was no doubt that this was an Olympics like no other.

With Tokyo under a state of emergency during the Games because of a cluster of Covid 19 infections, the Games came under enormous criticism from the Japanese public, most of whom expressed a desire to cancel or postpone the Games again.

But security is a top priority for the organizers and enormous precautions are being taken, such as holding the Games behind closed doors and not allowing fans from Japan or abroad to enter the venues.

There are also severe restrictions on the athletes. They must wear masks at all times – except when eating, drinking, training, competing or sleeping – and minimize physical interaction with others, as well as undergo daily Covid 19 tests.

But unfortunately, the virus had already reached the Olympics before they officially began.

On Friday, 19 new cases of Covid-19 were reported, bringing the total number of cases linked to Olympic personnel to 106. There were 11 positive cases among athletes in Tokyo.

Six athletes from the British team had to be quarantined in their rooms after being identified as close contacts of someone on their flight who subsequently tested positive for Covid-19.

US tennis player Coco Gauff had to withdraw from her first Olympics after testing positive before arriving in Tokyo, while British team players Dan Evans and Johanna Konta, as well as world number one in shooting Amber Hill, also withdrew for the same reason.

What is new?

There will be a record 339 medal events and the IOC has added five new events to the Tokyo 2020 program – 34 new events in total. A record 48.8% of athletes competing at the Tokyo Games will be women.

The five new sports are karate, skateboarding, sport climbing, baseball/softball and surfing. Baseball and softball are technically not “new” to the Olympic program, but have not been contested since Beijing 2008.

New disciplines have been introduced in boxing, kayak slalom, kayak sprint, cycling, rowing and swimming, as well as new mixed-gender disciplines, including a mixed 4x100m relay in swimming and a mixed relay in triathlon.

What’s new in Tokyo 2020?

These sports are being introduced to appeal to a younger audience and reflect “the trend towards urbanization of sport”.

IOC President Bach said.” We want to bring sport closer to young people. Because young people have so much choice, we can no longer expect them to come to us automatically. We have to go to them.

This year’s Games are also making their contribution to sustainable development. The medals are made from recycled mobile phones and the Olympic torch is made from aluminum leftovers from the construction of emergency shelters after the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011.

Only eight new competition venues will be built from scratch, and most of the energy for the Tokyo 2020 Games will come from renewable sources.

In total, the Games will cost £11.5 billion, an increase of 22% due to the one-year delay.

For the first time in 125 years, the British team has selected more female athletes than male for the Games, with 201 of the 376 athletes originally selected being women. Great Britain will be represented in 26 of the 33 Olympic sports in Tokyo.

In London 2012, the British team won 65 medals, and four years later in Rio, the figure was 67. In Tokyo, UK Sport expects to win between 45 and 70 medals.

This is less than the target of 54 to 92 medals set for 2018, given the “exceptional circumstances” faced by athletes and staff in the run-up to the Games.

Swimmer Adam Peaty (100m breaststroke), gymnast Max Whitlock (pommel horse) and taekwondo star Jade Jones are favorites to retain their Rio gold medals, while Jones, the 57kg champion in both London and Rio, will attempt to become the first British athlete to win gold at three consecutive Games.

Track cyclists Jason and Laura Kenny have the chance to become Britain’s most successful Olympians: Jason is currently tied with Sir Chris Hoy for the record with six gold medals, while Laura is already Britain’s most successful athlete with four golds.

Sprinter Dina Ash-Smith is the face of the British team with medal chances in the 100m and 200m, while figure skater Skye Brown is Britain’s youngest Olympian at 13 and is a medal contender in the women’s Parkland.

Sailor Hannah Mills and rower Mohamed Spihi will lead the British team at Friday’s opening ceremony. Tokyo is the first Olympics where countries can choose two flag bearers in a bid to improve gender equality.

American gymnast Simone Biles was one of the standout stars of the Rio Games five years ago.

The 24-year-old won four gold medals and a bronze at her first Olympics and will compete again in all five events. If she can defend her title in the all-around, she would be the first Olympic gymnast since 1968 to do so.

Two other Americans are expected to dominate the pool. Caeleb Dressel has “only” won two Olympic gold medals so far, but the 24-year-old is likely to win as many as six in Tokyo, while Katie Ledecky is expected to compete in as many as six events, in addition to the four gold medals she won in London 2012.

At the Olympic Stadium, keep an eye on Jamaican sprinter and six-time Olympic medalist Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce and Swedish pole vaulter Armand Duplantis.

World number one Novak Djokovic of Serbia is still in search of the Golden Slam after winning the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon this year, and still needs the Olympic and US Open titles to complete the feat.

But possibly one of the most anticipated performances of the Tokyo Olympics will be that of transgender weightlifter Laura Hubbard, 43.

Hubbard, who broke the men’s national record as a teenager, will be the first transgender athlete to compete in an individual discipline – the women’s 87-kg class – at the Olympics.

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