Dubai: We had to wait four years – and an additional 12 months – but ultimately the Tokyo 2020 Olympics will kick off on July 23.
It’s been a long time coming and for a while it looked like it wouldn’t come at all with Japan battling the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, calls for the cancellation of the Games are growing louder as the country battles a growing number of infections.
Despite the coronavirus state of emergency in Tokyo and a poll showing that 70% of the population does not want the Olympics to take place, the Games will start next Friday – but will do so without any spectator being able to watch the one of the action. As disappointing as it can be for the fans, it can actually help the athletes who participate. We have seen how several players from the English Premier League teams have thrived playing in empty stadiums without the pressure and expectations of the fans, and in Tokyo we could have a similar situation.
The Great Britain team – which is bringing more female athletes than men to the games for the first time in 125 years – could thrive. Of the 376 athletes selected, their largest Olympic Games overseas delegation, 175 are men and 201 are women. They have a strong squad and will be eager to make their country proud once again after performing superb in the last three Olympics. At the 2008 Beijing Games, they won 19 gold medals (total of 51 medals) and then in London 2012 they excelled at home by winning a record 29 gold medals (total of 65 medals). But it was at the Rio 2016 Games that the British team won their biggest medal record, winning 67, including 27 gold.
They have several golden hopes this time around and many will rest on the broad shoulders of Adam Peaty (swimming, 100-meter breaststroke). The 2016 gold winner broke the 100-meter breaststroke world record twice in two days in Rio. He went on to win gold at the World Championships in 2017 in Budapest and in 2019 in Gwangju and is the GB team’s biggest gold prospect in Japan. While dominating in the water, Giles Scott (sailing, finn class) hopes to continue to reign there. He secured the top spot in Rio with a day to spare and will aim to repeat that feat in the port of Enoshima. Women will be allowed to compete for the first time in canoe, class C1 and Mallory Franklin is hoping to create a sensation. The former World and European Championship gold medalist will do her best to add an Olympic gold for the treble.
Meanwhile, Katarina Johnson-Thompson (athletics, heptathlon) who won gold at the 2019 World Championships in Doha will try to maintain her good form as will Dina Asher-Smith (athletics, 200 meters) whose performance in Doha l ‘have seen redefining. British national records. She will want to improve on her fifth place in Rio.
There will be British representation in 26 of the 33 Olympic sports, which means plenty of medal-winning opportunities, but there will be plenty of challenges in Tokyo. With a great team full of quality, Team GB should be up to the task.