Tokyo Olympics experience hefty change as competition returns for summer

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Photo by Fair Use via Instagram (@nbcolympics)

This summer, amid concerns by Japanese residents about the pandemic, the 2021 Tokyo Olympics will include many precautions in order to keep its competitors safe, like decreased ticket numbers and the lack of an Olympic Village.

The Summer Games countdown has started again, and fans are ready. Originally, the Olympics were to be held in July 2020 in Tokyo, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was postponed one year. Tokyo has been awaiting athletes from around the world to arrive and participate in the competition of their lives. With the postponement, much has changed for the athletes, their families, coaches and the city of Tokyo as everyone adjusts to the additional year of waiting and preparation. 

There is a lot of controversy about if the Olympics should actually be happening this year too. Some citizens of Tokyo find that allowing so many people into their city will be very unsafe. They would either like the games to be postponed again or canceled, but the International Olympic Committee (IOC) made the decision to stick it out with safety plans in place, hoping to put Japanese people at ease. 

One major reason for the games to be held rather than canceled or postponed again is for all of the money that Japan has already put into the buildings, the ceremonies and the experience. The Tokyo Olympics is estimated to cost 26 billion dollars, the most expensive Olympics to date. Part of the reason these costs are so high is that the new arenas were more expensive than anticipated and they had kept these buildings unused for a year before being able to rent them out. There is also going to be significantly less income from ticket sales — normally a major point of income for the IOC and for the host city. Tokyo will also need to spend more money on COVID-19 protection and enforcing safety protocols. Before COVID-19, the games were already over budget and now with the current global pandemic, the price has skyrocketed. 

“I’ve never competed without my family of some sort at a meet,” gold medal gymnast Simone Biles said. “It’ll be different. I’m just super excited that the Olympics will take place”

A one-year delay is a long time for athletes. They can develop new skills in that time, train more and improve upon existing skills. This delay also gives time for injuries to develop. Older competitors might have planned on retiring after the 2020 Olympics and realized that they had to keep going for another year. On top of all of this, gyms and arenas have been closed in certain countries, especially at the beginning of the pandemic. Athletes had to figure out how to practice for their events at home while staying safe and healthy. Once allowed back in the gym, they had to regain their strength and endurance. 

Athletes will not be allowed to be involved in the typical Olympic experience. Normally, all the athletes stay together in the Olympic Village (where the athletes’ housing is) and get to interact with people from other countries and other sports. So far, masks will be worn all the time, other than eating, drinking, sleeping, training or competing. There will also be apps used for health screenings and contact tracing. All of these measures are part of the IOC’s goal of zero COVID-19 transmissions as it would be devastating for the individuals and those close to them, as well as potentially spectators, coaches, media personnel and more.

“I always make time to watch swimming and artistic swimming whenever they are on,” Lucy Rosengren (10) said. “I always enjoy watching these two because they inspire me to push myself harder during swim and synchro season.”

This year is the debut of some sports at the Olympics as well as a return of others. Surfing, Skateboarding, Sport-climbing and Karate are all going to be never seen before events at the Olympics. These athletes will get a chance that they never thought they would have — to compete in the Olympics alongside other top competitors. Additionally, baseball and softball are coming back to the summer Olympics after not being included for the past two summer games because the professional players’ season (MLB) ran at the same time as the Olympics. The last time they were an Olympic sport was at the Beijing Games in 2008. This year is also the appearance of some new disciplines, which are events in specific sports. For example, the 1500m in women’s swimming, a mixed team event in archery and both women’s and men’s 3×3 basketball will be included in the Summer Games this time around. 

Athletes around the globe are ready for their long-awaited Olympic experience, and fans are ready to turn on their TVs (or laptops, tablets or smartphones) and watch people’s life work culminate in the most prestigious worldwide competitions known to man.