How are the Tokyo 2020 Olympics going to look? While there is no crystal ball to predict the status of the pandemic through the coming year, here is our current thinking:
In my most recent message I mentioned that the Canadian Olympic Committee has been world leading in planning for its Olympic team to compete at its best at the Tokyo 2020 Games. This is true. What is also true, are these top priorities: 1) Ensuring the health and safety of Team Canada; and, 2) Supporting the highest performance possible at the Olympic Games.
In the coming months there will be many IOC, OCOG (Organizing Committee) and NOC meetings and announcements about how the Tokyo Games will be delivered. Planning is proceeding with the anticipation that a vaccine will not be widely available, if in fact one is available at all. As your Chef de Mission, I believe that this planning information should be shared with you as soon as possible. Know that your NSO and the COC are in complete agreement on this. Giving you a sense of the plans that Team Canada has in place will be better for your own (personal and team) preparation and performance at Games. Gossip and speculation are rarely helpful.
This is just a start, and as I share this information it’s important for you to remember that each of us will be affected differently by international plans, our own Canadian plan and your specific NSO’s plan. AND all of these plans are being constantly evaluated.
Next summer, we should anticipate that testing and/or preventative measures will be part of our daily lives. This will be more than just masks, social distancing and handwashing. As we saw in the NBA, WNBA, NHL and other professional league play, the key to successful competition has been strict bubbles and protocols that protected the players and their support team from contracting and spreading COVID-19.
You should expect very controlled training environments before you travel to Tokyo, and once you arrive, you will become part of a strict Olympic bubble. Discussions currently support a bubble for those living in the Olympic Village, and other bubbles for those living outside of the village, all with strict protocols for testing and access (or no access) to transportation and venues. This means that Family & Friends will not be in the same bubble as you to protect the health and safety of the system.
(If you have Family & Friends planning to attend…you should have an honest conversation about what this means to all of you. The Canadian Olympic Family & Friends programs in Japan are being scaled back and will be adapted to these new realities. We can assume that venue tickets that were already scarce will be pared down (currently, outdoor events in Japan are open to a max of 50% capacity). Being a foreign spectator at the Games in 2021 will likely be very challenging and connecting with people outside your bubble could have devastating consequences.)
Your Olympic experience will be different relative to your previous Games and/or what you have envisioned, especially around such iconic moments as Ceremonies and cheering on fellow Canadian Olympic Team members at other sport venues.
We understand that you might have a ton of questions. While the COC, your NSO and team might not be able to give you all the answers right now, please know that we’re all on top of this and working together to figure this out. Remember – as everything continues to evolve, the final plan might look different. However, we thought that it was responsible to communicate with you now so that you know what we’re thinking about and how the plans are trending.
I know this seems like a lot and might be very disappointing, but the goal is for your Olympic competition to happen – even if the Olympic Games will look and feel dramatically different.
Take heart: On the field of play – the Olympic competition will be extraordinary. You and your competitors will compete as fiercely as ever. I can imagine that the stakes will feel even higher; in this pandemic you’ve all sacrificed so much more. The goal remains the same – personal best performances and podium results. While spectators in the building will be limited, broadcast media will show your efforts to the world.
Do not let this changing environment lead you to take your foot off of the throttle. Plan to soar. Be ready to rise; at the Olympics – someone always does. Why not you?
Marnie McBean OC OLY
Chef de Mission Team Canada Tokyo 2020