Tokyo Olympics will be safe, governor says

Next year's Olympics will be safe despite the coronavirus pandemic, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said, pledging a "120-percent effort" to ensure the first-ever postponed Games can go ahead. (AFP)
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Updated 13 June 2020

Tokyo Olympics will be safe, governor says

  • Tokyo 2020 became the first Olympics ever postponed in peacetime earlier this year as the coronavirus marched across the globe
  • They are now scheduled to begin on July 23, 2021

TOKYO: Next year’s Olympics will be safe despite the coronavirus pandemic, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike has said, pledging a “120-percent effort” to ensure the first-ever postponed Games can go ahead.
Koike — who announced Friday she would stand for re-election next month — said the city was committed to holding the event as a “symbol of human triumph” over the virus, but admitted it would be downsized.
“I will make a 120-percent effort,” Koike, 67, said in an interview with AFP, but declined to say how confident she was that the sporting extravaganza would open as planned.
Tokyo 2020 became the first Olympics ever postponed in peacetime earlier this year as the coronavirus marched across the globe, upending lives and forcing the cancelation of sporting and cultural events.
They are now scheduled to begin on July 23, 2021 — though they will still be known as the 2020 Games — but medical experts have raised concerns that the delay will not be long enough to contain the virus and hold the event safely.
Officials in Japan and from the International Olympic Committee have warned it will not be possible to postpone again.
Koike said she was continuing to “make all-out efforts in the battle against the virus to put on a Games that is full of hope.”
And she pledged an event “that is safe and secure for athletes and fans from abroad as well as for residents of Tokyo and Japan.”
Japan has got through the first coronavirus wave better than many countries, with just over 900 deaths out of fewer than 18,000 confirmed infections.
But it has faced persistent criticism for conducting relatively few tests that could understate the true number of cases.
Officials point to the comparatively low death rate as evidence that a recently lifted state of emergency — imposed in response to rising cases in April — and a public awareness campaign on social distancing have worked.
“Tokyo residents know that the summer Games next year in 2021 is not possible unless the impact of coronavirus calms down,” Koike said.
“That was among the things that pushed them to make these efforts.”
Japanese and Olympic officials have repeatedly said it is too early to tell how the pandemic will have evolved by the run-up to the rescheduled Games.
For now, Koike said “simplification and cost reduction” are the main planks of discussions, along with potential safety measures.
“What kind of (virus) tests and how? How much social distancing is necessary? These will depend on future discussions,” she said.
The final price tag of postponing the Games remains unclear and the delay has also rattled sponsors.
A survey this week showed two-thirds of Tokyo 2020’s corporate sponsors are on the fence about continuing their backing.
But Koike insisted the event would still be an “excellent opportunity” for sponsors and said she would be asking for their “continued support.”
The governor, who broke with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to run for the job in 2016, will stand for a second four-year term next month.
She has been mentioned in the past as a possible future prime minister, and in 2017 stunned the political establishment by forming a short-lived new party that was seen as a potential challenger to the LDP.
But Koike, who has described Japan as having not a glass ceiling for women but rather an “iron plate,” was tightlipped on whether she might one day seek to become the country’s first female prime minister.
For now, she said she is busy “preparing for the second wave of infections with the knowledge gained and experience earned.”


Lin Dan retirement ends era of ‘Chinese sports superstar’

Updated 08 July 2020

Lin Dan retirement ends era of ‘Chinese sports superstar’

  • The era of the superstar that once belonged to Chinese sports has faded

SHANGHAI: The retirement of two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan signals the end of a golden era of Chinese sporting superstars, state media said on Tuesday.

Arguably the greatest badminton player of all time, the 36-year-old said on Saturday that he was bringing the curtain down on a career that also brought five world titles.

NBA All-Star Yao Ming, Olympic gold-medal hurdler Liu Xiang and two-time tennis Grand Slam champion Li Na have all retired in the last decade.

“With the ‘Super Dan’ curtain call, people cannot help but sigh,” Xinhua news agency said.

“The era of the superstar that once belonged to Chinese sports has faded.

“When will the next Lin Dan appear? Or when will the next Yao Ming, Liu Xiang and Li Na appear?

“Where is the next Chinese sports superstar who will create a collective memory for us?”

The quartet were not just world leaders in their sport and popular in China, but also had “considerable influence in the international arena and became a window for the world to understand China,” Xinhua said.

Of prominent Chinese athletes left, women’s volleyball player Zhu Ting has the potential to rise to superstar level, Xinhua said, while disgraced swimmer Sun Yang “enjoys high popularity (in China), but unfortunately he is banned.” 

The 28-year-old is appealing against an 8-year ban for refusing to give a doping sample. The three-time Olympic freestyle champion’s career will effectively be over if he loses his appeal at the Swiss Federal Tribunal.

China has world champions in other sports, and finished third behind the US and Britain in the medal table at the Rio 2016 Olympics, but they are not generally well-known even inside the country, Xinhua said.

Table tennis player Zhang Jike, another three-time Olympic gold medalist, deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Lin, said the Oriental Sports Daily.

But at 32 his best days are behind him and as far back as 2016 he signaled his intention to retire, before having a change of heart.

“When will the next Lin Dan and China’s next sports superstar appear again?” asked the newspaper.

“This question may not be answered in a short space of time.”