The opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics is still a day away, and there’s already been a major upset. But the drama hasn’t been limited to the field.
Organizers are still struggling to reassure residents that the thousands of arriving athletes won’t worsen the spread of Covid-19 in Tokyo. And a new rash of cases has sidelined more players and teams, including Mexico’s entire baseball squad, which is now in quarantine back home and waiting for clearance to travel.
And while only two sports — soccer and softball — have officially started play this week, there are already signs that players will take advantage of rules that allow for more activism and protests before the start of a game. On Wednesday, members of four women’s soccer teams took a knee before their matches.
Back then, the quarterfinal loss cost them a chance at the gold medal. This time, the 3-0 defeat on Wednesday ended the team’s streak of 44 straight games without a loss. The U.S., which has won four gold medals, was one of the favorites to win it all, coming off a title in the 2019 World Cup.
The U.S. side now has two days to regroup before its next match, on Saturday against New Zealand. That’s not much time, and that game and Tuesday’s match with Australia are likely must-wins if the U.S. women want to collect enough points to qualify for the next round, where they could face powerhouses like Britain, Brazil and the Netherlands.
The games have already been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Japan, which had put in place tight restrictions over the past year, wanted to make sure that these Games went off without a hitch after having delayed them a year. So the organizers made some big moves, including barring spectators, which has proved divisive. But the steps have done little to assuage the concerns of people across Japan, where numbers of cases are rising.
Among athletes, officials and others working at the Games, 75 people have tested positive for the coronavirus as of Wednesday, including six athletes, according to Tokyo 2020’s database. That tally does not include those who tested positive before arrival in Japan. Two players on Mexico’s baseball team tested positive before the team’s scheduled departure to Tokyo, forcing the team into quarantine in Mexico City. Several players, including some from the U.S., will miss the Games after positive tests.
Just two weeks ago, the English men’s soccer team grabbed headlines when its players knelt to highlight racism before games in the Euro 2020 tournament. While the team lost the championship to Italy, it helped highlight causes that were important to the players and drew the ire of some politicians in England.
That should have been a signal of what to expect at the Olympics, where the organizers relaxed rules, allowing players to protest before games. Protests are still banned during play or at the awarding of medals. So far, the women’s soccer teams from Chile, the United States, Sweden and Britain have taken a knee.
And viewers should prepare for more protests on Friday at the opening ceremony and over the coming weeks of events, according to Tommie Smith, who famously raised a fist to highlight the oppression of Black Americans when he was awarded the gold medal for the 200 meters in track and field in Mexico City in 1968.
The 2020 games haven’t even officially started, and we are already talking about the host for 2032: Brisbane. It’s the third-largest city in Australia, located on the country’s east coast near the surfing meccas of the Gold Coast. It’s the third time Australia will host the games.
The decision to name Brisbane as the 2032 host probably didn’t come as a surprise to one person: John Coates. He’s one of the vice presidents for the International Olympic Committee, which wrote the new rules for selecting a host. He also happens to head the Australian Olympic Committee, the group that pitched the bid.