There was a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Olympics 2020 due to the coronavirus situation. Many in Japan held protests to cancel or postpones the game but IOC (International Olympic Committee) went ahead anyway. Well, there were some supporters as well who wanted the event to happen. They cited the efforts of all the athletes who have been working hard for the last 5 years in hopes of making their country proud at the 135th Olympic Games.
The rescheduled event was halted last year due to COVID and restarted on 23rd July. The country is still facing a devastating wave of the virus, infecting over 876,000 people and killing 15,084. The country hosted around 105,000 international athletes but it’s not clear how many are vaccinated. The athletes are not even required to get a shot, although IOC claims that they are encouraged. However, the fears remain the same that by canceling the Olympics, IOC could have saved lives but now they are just risking them.
Quitting Olympics 2020 Due to Coronavirus
According to the reports, more than 10,000 volunteers out of 80,000 have left the Olympics 2020 due to the virus threat levels. It started a major debate about whether Japan was ready to host the sporting event or not. Luckily for Japan, foreign spectators were not allowed at the games so organizers probably have enough volunteers to keep things running smooth.
On the other hand, reports of athletes pulling out due to coronavirus emerged on daily basis since July 1. They include Dutch Tennis players, Golfers from Spain and the US, Four Czech basketball players, US beach volleyball players, US women gymnasts, US women basketball players, skateboarders & taekwondo artists from the Netherlands, Russian swimmer, and Australia’s top men’s Tennis player.
Athletes leave Due to Solidarity with Palestine
While COVID may have caused involuntary exit, some athletes left for much larger reasons. Reportedly, an Algerian judo artist Fethi Nourine refused to compete with an Israeli opponent Tohar Butbul. Reportedly, Nourine and his coach told the media that they attempted to boycott Butbul in support of Palestinians. The fighter said that they were not lucky with the draw and got an Israeli opponent for which they had to retire. This is the second time Nourine has refused to face the same opponent. In the 2019 Judoka World Championship, he was again pitted against Butbul. He said that he does not recognize Israel as a nation and he would never “get his hands dirty” by facing its flag bearer. International Judo Federation (IJF) was quick to suspend him temporarily due to “discrimination” and promised more sanctions after the event is over.
Following Nourine, a Sudanese Judoka Mohamed Abdalrasool also refused to face Butbul and withdrew from the fight. Many Muslim states have yet to establish diplomatic ties with Israel. It seems impossible as long as illegal Israeli settlements exist on Palestinian lands. United Nations Human Rights Watch has also declared Israel as an apartheid state but organizations like IOC still have a distorted understanding of what discrimination is.
Australian Quits Due to Mental Health Issues
WNBA player Elizabeth Cambage from Australia pulled out of Olympics 2020 due to struggles with mental health. The athlete revealed that series of events have taken place which pushed her to a breaking point. First, she was caught up in a physical altercation then she was forced to stay in a Las Vegas hotel room under strict protocols. There were no friends there and anxiety and panic attacks have made things further difficult for her. The basketball player opened up about her situation in a social media post.
President Forced to Resign after Making Sexist Remarks
The head of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee Yoshiro Mori, received a lot of criticism after his speech got leaked. In that speech, he was suggesting that women talk too much during the meetings. Reportedly, the Japan Olympic committee’s goal was to increase the number of its female board members from 20% to 30% but Mori was concerned about the ‘length of meetings” if that happened.
The president had no choice but to resign after apologizing for making such sexist remarks.
Deaf-Blind Cancels Plans to Compete in Paralympics
Becca Meyers, a disabled American swimmer decided not to compete in the Paralympics after the committee did not allow her to bring a personal care assistant. Reportedly they did not have enough space to accommodate her assistant because of “COVID restrictions on delegates”. They failed to explain what the athlete who cannot naturally hear or see would do without the care assistant.
Becca said that she was disheartened, angry, but mostly sad because she would not be able to represent the United States in Tokyo Paralympics 2020.
Athletes Standing Up for Social Causes
Some made history by making a defying exit and some made it by staying and pushing their point. Three German ladies made good use of the Olympics 2020 platform to stand against the sexualization of female swimming competitions. Instead of bikini cuts, these women donned full-body unitards that covered legs to the ankles. Recently other female athletes have faced heavy fines for wearing modest clothes. This was the first time swimmers have worn a full-body outfit that complied with international standards. It was welcomed by most female athletes but as per the analysts, it’s doubtful that the trend would catch on.
Lastly, Costa Rica’s 18-year-old gymnast Luciana Alvarado won many hearts for making an expression against racism. As she concluded her floor-based workout routine, she got down on one knee, placed her left arm behind her back, and raised the right fist to pay homage to all the lives lost to racism.
This is the same gesture of anti-racism that came forward after the brutal murder of George Floyd by a white policeman. Previously, American basketball team Milwaukee Bucks made the same gesture when they refused to play NBA season to condemn the inbred racism in the US.