Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga says he will “spare no effort” to ensure a safe and secure Tokyo Olympic Games to show the world that humanity has defeated the COVID-19 pandemic.
Delay costs may reach $3.8 billion, organisers say
Mr Suga said a successful 2021 Games would prove the end of the pandemic
The Tokyo Olympics have been postponed until July 23rd, 2021
His comments come as organisers revealed postponing the Games until next year would cost the Japanese economy an additional 294 billion yen ($3.8 billion).
“I expressed my strong determination to host the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in the summer of next year as proof that humanity has defeated the pandemic,” Mr Suga said during a video speech at the United Nations General Assembly on Friday.
Officials in Victoria cannot reach agreement to let around 1,000 players, officials and support staff into the state for a January Australian Open start.
But, a world away, the G20 Leaders’ Summit closed with a message of support for the Tokyo Olympic Games, where it’s expected tens of thousands of people will gather next July.
Thomas Bach wants the Olympics to send a worldwide message of solidarity
In Japan, there are warnings hosting the Games in the middle of next year will be a gamble
Officials in Melbourne are still working on details of how athletes will train ahead of the Australian Open
The final declaration of the G20 Summit named the host cities of the next two Olympics as symbols of the world’s resilience in fighting the pandemic.
“As a symbol of humanity’s resilience and global unity in overcoming COVID-19, we commend Japan’s determination to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 next year,” the G20 Leaders joint statement read.
“We look forward to the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022,” it added.
International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach addressed the summit, invited by Saudi officials who are believed to be strengthening ties with the IOC ahead of a possible Olympic bid.
Bach said in his address that the Olympics “save lives”.
“During this coronavirus crisis, we all have seen how important sport is for physical and mental health,” he said.
“The World Health Organization has acknowledged this by signing a cooperation agreement with the IOC.
“Following this agreement, the UN, the WHO and the IOC launched a co-branded campaign called ‘Healthy Together’, rolling out projects internationally.”
Bach also said the IOC would play a role in a global pro-vaccination campaign.
“We have learned one important lesson from this crisis: we need more solidarity, more solidarity within societies and more solidarity among societies,” he said.
“These Olympic Games, with the participation of all 206 National Olympic Committees and the IOC Refugee Olympic Team, will send a strong message of solidarity, resilience and unity of humankind in all our diversity.”
A ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ or ‘a gamble’?
During last week’s visit to Tokyo to inspect facilities and review the current contingency plans, Bach described the Games as a “light at the end of the tunnel”.
But the Japan Times newspaper has described the determination to push ahead with the Games amid so much uncertainty around the pandemic and access to a vaccine as “a gamble”.
Kenneth McElwain, a professor at the University of Tokyo’s Institute of Social Sciences, told the paper that weighing the benefits of hosting the Games against the cost of cancelling them was a difficult prospect.
“Having the Olympics is certainly a feelgood story,” he said.
“If the Olympics don’t happen, at a global level I suspect that there’s going to be a lot of shrugging … in Japan it will be much darker and would trigger a relitigating of every decision the government has made.”
Meanwhile negotiations around the Australian Open are continuing in Victoria, with players adamant they need to be able to train during their quarantine ahead of the tournament.
The State Government’s decision to prevent a December arrival would see players quarantine for the first two weeks of January, with play beginning at the Open four days later.
Options being discussed include retaining the current dates but allowing players access to training facilities during the quarantine period, or delaying the Open by a couple of weeks or even a couple of months.
Neither Australian Open officials nor Tokyo Olympic officials have suggested cancellation as an option.
Brian Goorjian has been announced as the man to lead the Australian men’s basketball team at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
Current Hawks Basketball coach Brian Goorjian will lead the Australian Boomers until 2023
The appointment was announced today by Basketball Australia following the resignation of Brett Brown
Goorjian coached the Boomers at the Athens and Beijing Olympics and holds the record as the most successful NBL coach of all time
The current coach of The Hawks in the National Basketball League (NBL) led the Boomers from 2001 to 2008, overseeing the team’s campaigns at the Athens and Beijing Olympics.
He recently moved back to Australia from China to coach the Wollongong-based NBL side, and takes over the national team from NBA coach Brett Brown, who recently announced his resignation without coaching a single game.
Goorjian said the potentially NBA-player-stacked Boomers team was ready to win a medal.
“There’s that small window a lot of times in sport where there’s an opportunity to do something great, and Andre [Lemanis, former Boomers coach] and Basketball Australia did a tremendous job to get this team to where it sits now,” he said.
“It’s a short window of nine months [until the Olympics], but it’s a very talented team, and one we’re all proud of.”
Goorjian was the favourite to take over the national team given his prior experience in the job, along with his record as the most successful NBL coach of all time.
The Californian native played in the NBL, before forging a coaching career in the league that saw him win six championships between 1988 and 2009.
Basketball Australia general manager of high performance Jan Stirling said Goorjian beat a number of highly qualified Australian coaches for the role.
“We’re really excited by this appointment and in our country, we had a lot of high quality applicants, but Brian is a standout, not only for his domestic and international success, but also because he’s been on the Olympic stage with the Boomers.”
NBA player availability will not affect medal chances
There is added interest in the Boomers’ Olympic campaign this time because Australia will field a side stacked with NBA talent, including 2016 number one draft pick Ben Simmons and league veterans Patty Mills, Joe Ingles and Aaron Baynes.
However, if the 2020/21 NBA season is not finished in time for the Tokyo Olympics, it is likely those players will be unavailable.
Brian Goorjian said the depth of basketball talent in Australia meant the country was in a strong position to medal regardless of who was playing.
“If not and if it goes another direction, what the NBL and the domestic competition has done is incredible.
“We promote ourselves as being one of the best competitions in the world, so whatever way this thing swings, I feel good about our chances.”
The coronavirus pandemic has made achieving fair athlete qualification for the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games extremely difficult, International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) president Thomas Bach says.
The IOC says there is hardly a place on the planet where all athletes can access qualification events for next year’s Tokyo Olympics
President Thomas Bach has denied he will discuss cancellation of the Games during an upcoming meeting with Japanese PM, Yoshihide Suga
The IOC is increasing its Olympic Solidarity Fund to $811m to help athletes and National Olympic Committees deal with COVID-caused financial problems
At a news conference following the IOC’s monthly executive board meeting, Bach said 57 per cent of places have already been allocated, but that there were still many athletes around the world hoping to qualify for the remaining 43 per cent.
“For the remaining 43 per cent we still have to ensure a fair qualification system,” he said.
This is becoming more difficult for many sports, with the COVID-19 pandemic out of control in numerous countries and severe travel restrictions in many others.
Overnight, the World Wrestling Championships scheduled to take place in Serbia next month was cancelled.
Governing body, United World Wrestling (UWW), had set a target of at least eight of the top ten nations from last year’s event plus 70 per cent of athletes required to attend for the event to go ahead.
Those numbers could not be guaranteed.
“The problem that the international federations are facing, and with them we are facing, that at this moment you would hardly find a place on this planet where you would have access for all the athletes from all the countries who want to participate,” Bach said.
“The international federations are looking very much into next spring (Australia’s autumn), [and] there are also different scenarios under consideration whether some of the so-called ‘world qualifications’ will have to be turned into more continental or regional qualifications.
“Or even in one of the other sports or disciplines the world ranking or other rankings must be used to have, and ensure, a fair qualification system — this has to happen from federation to federation.
“I can only tell you that all the international federations are working very hard on this and that they are really fully committed to ensure a fair qualification system for all their athletes.”
The IOC has not set a target for the number of nations or athletes who must attend but remain confident most of the 206 National Olympic Committees will send teams to Tokyo.
“Our clear commitment is to make the participation possible for all the 206 National Olympic Committees and the IOC Refugee Team,” Bach said.
“If one athlete or the other does not want to participate for any reason, this is the individual decision of any athlete. We are respecting the athletes are free and must be free in their decisions.
“Given the very recent developments with regard to rapid testing and the vaccination, we are very confident we can offer a safe environment for all the athletes from all the National Olympic Committees and the IOC Refugee team.”
A one-day gymnastics event in Tokyo over the past weekend — featuring teams from Russia, China, the USA, as well as the host nation — provided a glimpse of hope as Olympic organisers prepare for a slow build towards next year’s Games.
The pandemic has created financial issues for many National Olympic Committees.
The IOC has announced expansion of its Olympic Solidarity Fund by 16 per cent overall, and an increase of 25 five per cent for direct athlete support programs, taking the total to US$590 million ($811.1million).
Bach warned athletes would be required to be flexible they prepare for the Tokyo Games scheduled to run from 23 July to 8 August 2021.
“They are not in a situation like you would (normally) be nine months before the Olympic Games where you can plan your period of training and competition, and you can determine when you want to peak,” he said.
“All this, unfortunately, is not easy but it’s the same challenge for all the athletes of the world.
“We could also see in the meeting with the Athletes’ Commission today that the athletes are really understanding this situation — of course they are not extremely happy about this but they accept it and they know that they need to have this flexibility in order to ensure a fair qualification and in order to ensure the safe organisation of the Games.”
Next week the IOC President will fly to Tokyo to meet with Japan’s Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga, and Olympic organisers.
When asked whether cancellation of the Games would be discussed Mr Bach replied: “No.”
Tokyo Olympic organisers will require athletes to submit to a COVID-19 test before and on arrival in Japan as part of proposed coronavirus countermeasures to protect those at the delayed Games.
Under the proposal, athletes will not have to undergo a two-week quarantine period
Athletes will also have to submit an activity plan indicating their proposed destinations
Organisers say they are yet to make a decision on spectator numbers or whether athletes will be kept in a “bubble”
Japanese athletes and other participants living in Japan will face the same requirements, according to the draft measures, which are still being discussed.
Organisers say they are yet to make a decision on spectator numbers or whether athletes will be kept in a bubble away from members of the public.
“Athletes should be protected, and by contacting the public the athletes might spread COVID-19 — that is a possibility,” Tokyo2020 CEO Toshiro Muto said.
Mr Muto said he hoped there would be more concrete plans in place by mid-December, but there were still many discussions that needed to be had with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), international sporting federations and national Olympic committees.
The IOC’s coordination commission will be held remotely on Thursday, with the draft measures certain to make for some challenging negotiations.
No decision has been made on how many tests athletes will have to undertake while in Japan or in the Olympic and Paralympic Village.
Under the proposal, athletes will not have to undergo a two-week quarantine period but they will have to submit an activity plan indicating their proposed destinations, such as competition and training venues, and how they will get there.
“It should be very difficult — it’s not realistic for us to consider not using public transportation by athletes because they will have to go to regional areas, they might have to use public transportation,” Mr Muto said.
The draft countermeasures from Games organisers were discussed with members of the Japanese Government and the local Government this afternoon.
In June, Toshiro Muto warned: “The Games will not be a grand splendour but will be a simplified Games.”
Japan’s Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga, held a call with IOC president Thomas Bach, with both reiterating their hopes the Games would go ahead safely and securely.
Mr Bach said earlier in the day the recent staging of various sporting events around the world should provide confidence the Games would go ahead next summer.
Many difficult questions remain for Games organisers.
The Japanese Government and the IOC took the unprecedented decision in March to postpone the Games, which were originally scheduled to begin in July.
Tokyo officials have said they intend to hold the Games in 2021 even if the pandemic has not eased substantially.
Five-time Olympic champion swimmer Ian Thorpe said earlier this month he wanted the Games go ahead but was doubtful they could without a coronavirus vaccine.
“So let’s put that into perspective and, if we haven’t got a treatment or a vaccine for COVID, the Olympics will possibly not go ahead.”
The IOC’s coordination commission chair John Coates said he did not believe a vaccine would be needed for the Games to go ahead.
Tom O’Halloran is in his natural place. In his natural state.
Tom O’Halloran wants to fulfil a childhood dream of competing at the Olympics
Sport climbing will make its Olympic debut in Tokyo
O’Halloran has faced a challenging year, having lost his job during the coronavirus pandemic
On an overhanging rock in Sydney’s west called Jessica’s, his left arm is stretched up hooking onto a tiny ledge, white with chalk dust. His right is bent by his side, a few fingers clinging to the tiniest of holds. His legs are dangling, bent, less than a metre above the ground.
With all his weight through his arms, O’Halloran swings his legs up and to the left vertically above his head. He hooks his toes onto a higher ledge, his body contorted upside down in the form of an ‘L’.
His left hand moves up to take a hold where his feet have hooked on, then his right arm.
Now, he can let his feet go down and dangle again. Once more, his feet swing up and now he has hoisted himself up to the top of the rock.
“Ah sick,” O’Halloran shouts.
It is the exaltation of a man driven to take on a challenge and succeed. The rest of the world is irrelevant, like an artist who creates for their own satisfaction with no thoughts of an audience.
Tom O’Halloran is 27. He stands five feet, 11 inches tall and weighs 67 kilograms. Wiry and strong. Not an ounce of fat on him.
“I am an outdoor climber,” O’Halloran said.
Home for O’Halloran is the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, and a tight-knit circle of fellow travellers who have congregated around the mecca of Australia’s climbing world.
“It’s a way of life,” he said.
A video on O’Halloran’s YouTube channel shows him swearing in frustration as he tries and repeatedly fails a complicated and physically demanding move.
It is overcoming those obstacles that drive him and bring a glint to his eye.
“The thing that totally inspires me is taking on a challenge that seems like it’s not going to make it, that I’ve got to rise up and find something new,” O’Halloran said.
That love of a challenge is being put to a new test. As one of Australia’s highest-ranked climbers, he is aiming to become the first man selected to compete for Australia in the new Olympic event of sport climbing at next year’s postponed Tokyo Games.
It has been a year of challenges.
In March, the selection trials for the Games were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic and in the same week O’Halloran lost his job on the maintenance team at a Blue Mountains tourist attraction and got put on JobKeeper payments.
“It was like, ‘wow’, I’m not sure there’s going to be too many weeks in my life where everything just gets upended,” he said.
“The sporting achievement that you’ve been trying to drive for, for so long is just totally evaporated and your work is just gone.”
It meant putting on hold a lifelong dream. There was some relief to have more time, but also “a little bit of anger and sadness”.
When O’Halloran found his calling
It was a journey that began when O’Halloran was 12 years old. He was a sport-mad kid and his parents gave him the option of having a birthday party or joining the kids’ club program at his local Brisbane climbing gym.
He chose the gym and was hooked. He had found his sport and his calling.
After finishing school, he had an epiphany on a climbing trip in South Africa and decided the pursuit needed “to be a central point of my life”.
“I got home and three months later had saved up enough money to pack everything into my old Volvo and drive 12 hours from Brisbane down to the Blue Mountains,” he said.
“Suddenly I found my partner and we had a baby and bought a house and here we are after a nearly a decade of living in the Blue Mountains.”
Along the way there was even a brief segue into the world of reality TV where he appeared for two seasons on Australian Ninja Warrior, making the grand final in the second season.
“The whole TV experience was pretty full on,” O’Halloran said.
“We’re a bit of a quiet bunch us climbers. The night after we were on, we were down at a shopping centre in Sydney and we got recognised in the change room changing our daughter’s nappy and that was pretty full-on and strange.”
Now the self-confessed “outdoor climber” is working almost exclusively indoors to achieve his Olympic dream.
The new Olympic sport of rock climbing combines three disciplines: speed climbing (as fast as you can go up a 15-metre vertical wall), bouldering (solving “problems” on fixed routes in a given time frame) and lead (climbing as high as possible on a 15-metre wall in a given time).
It is a very different to the methodical approach O’Halloran takes to climbing outdoors.
“In competition you have to show up on the day no matter what’s happening in the world and you need to be at your best at that moment,” he said.
Commitment the key to sport climbing
O’Halloran’s partner Amanda Watts, who is also a competitive and top-ranked climber, has put her ambitions on hold to help O’Halloran achieve his goals.
Watts describes a typical day prior to the pandemic.
“He’d get up at 4:30 in the morning so he could be at the gym by 4:45,” she said.
“He’d train until 6:30, go straight to work at 7:00. Work a 10-hour day. Come home, have a snack, hang out with Audrey [their six-year-old daughter] and I and then go back to the gym for another two-hour session.
“Get home probably about 8:30, have dinner [and] go to sleep.”
The long days were a product of trying to work and train for a sport with no government funding.
O’Halloran admits to some envy when he compares himself to the rock stars of the Australian Olympic movement, who are funded to train full-time.
“It’s hard to not look at some of those fully professional athletes that are getting all the money and the opportunities with a little bit of jealousy perhaps,” he said.
No job, no funding
But O’Halloran does have more time to devote to getting that one spot and that is what keeps him going — the thought of fulfilling a dream that began as a child when he watched the opening ceremony at the 2000 Sydney Olympics on TV.
“Whenever I kind of sit there and really think about it … it almost makes you teary,” O’Halloran said with some emotion.
“To have the opportunity to realise that dream is pretty incredible, and not something that I ever thought was going to happen.”
O’Halloran joked he may become too emotional should he realise his goal of competing at the Olympics.
“I think they might need to put me on an IV drip to replace the amount of fluids with the amount of crying I might do if I took that spot,” O’Halloran laughed.
The postponed Tokyo Olympics are due to start in a year, but still have a massive question mark hanging over them because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
O’Halloran knows it.
“With everything that’s going on it’s about adapting and trying to remain positive,” he said.
“It’s something that no matter what’s going on in the world with all the conflict and … it really is a moment of pause amongst the chaos. It brings us together and gives us purpose.”
Verhaeren had been set to cut ties with Swimming Australia after his contract expired following the Tokyo Olympics.
But after the Olympics were postponed until 2021 due to coronavirus, Verhaeren said he had made the tough decision to depart in September with his family.
Verhaeren, a former Dutch national head coach who inspired the likes of Olympic champions Pieter van den Hoogenband and Inge de Bruijn, revitalised Australian swimming after taking over as Dolphins head coach.
Given the reins after a disastrous 2012 London Olympic campaign in the pool, he twice steered Australia to the world number two ranking behind the United States at the 2015 and 2019 world championships.
“I tried to look for ways to extend [my contract], but you can’t compromise in a high-performance environment, nor did I want to compromise my family,” Verhaeren said in a statement.
Taylor, the former coach of three-time Olympic gold medallist Leisel Jones, takes over the top job after working under Verhaeren in a number of campaigns as the Dolphins team’s coach leader.
Verhaeren said he would spend his remaining time in Australia supporting Taylor through a “transition phase”.
“I want to congratulate Rohan, who I believe is a great appointment, and wish him and the team all the best for next year and beyond,” he said.
Taylor, currently state head coach for Victoria and Tasmania, said he was confident of leading Australia to success in the Tokyo pool.
“Jacco has laid the groundwork for our Olympic campaign and I have worked closely with him and our Olympic leadership team,” he said.
Swimming Australia president John Bertrand said Verhaeren would leave with their blessing after taking the sport in the country to a “new level”.
“Jacco has left his indelible imprint on high performance swimming in this country,” he said.
“His constant search for new developments and his curiosity has taken our thinking to a new level.”