Modern Athlete Magazine Issue 143, July 2021 July 2020 | Page 20


Let the Games Begin –

We ’ ve had to wait an extra year for the Tokyo Olympics to finally happen , but now that they ’ re here , we ’ ve got so much great action to look forward to on the track and road . Team SA may not look as strong as it did going into the Rio Olympics in 2016 , but we still have some great medal contenders amongst our athletes , and a number of young prospects raring to make their mark on the global athletics stage . – BY MANFRED SEIDLER

As 2020 was welcomed in , so athletes the world over began gearing up for the greatest global sporting event , scheduled to take place from 24 July to 9 August in Tokyo . The Japanese capital had last hosted the Olympics in 1964 , and no stone was being left unturned to ensure that the 32nd edition of the Modern Olympic Games would be the greatest ever . Then COVID-19 came along and spoilt the party … for everyone !

At the beginning of the year , athletes did not know how to prepare for an event that increasingly looked as if it was not going to happen , with qualifying and build-up events being cancelled at a rapid rate of knots . Meanwhile , the International Olympic Committee ( IOC ) and the Local Organising Committee ( LOC ) left it to the last possible moment , but on 24 March they announced the official postponement of the Games to 2021 , with the Games officially being renamed as 2020one .
The postponement has cost the Japanese hosts a lot of extra money , pushing the estimated costs of staging the Games up from $ 12.6 billion to $ 15.4 billion , an increase of 22 %, mostly from renegotiating contracts and all the extra measures to combat the COVID pandemic . Some audits estimate the actual costs of the Tokyo Games to be closer to $ 25 billion , but even at $ 15.4 billion they are the most expensive Games ever . By comparison , the Rio Olympics in 2016 cost an estimated $ 11.1 billion .
Finally , though , the Games are here . No spectators will be allowed into the sporting arenas , due to the pandemic , but the Games are going ahead . They officially open on Friday 23 July , with the opening ceremony , and the curtain comes down on Sunday 8
August . The athletics only gets underway on 30 July , so while were wait for the spectacle to begin , it ’ s time to have a look at just what we are in store for .
South African Hopes
In Rio 2016 , the athletics team from South Africa came back with four medals – two gold and two silver . The golds were won by the indomitable Caster Semenya in the women ’ s 800m and Wayde van Niekerk in that epic men ’ s 400m , which saw him take down Michael Johnson ’ s 17-year-old World Record of 43.18 and even threaten to break the 43-second barrier with his winning 43.03 . Sunette Viljoen bagged the silver in the women ’ s Javelin , as did Luvo Manyonga in the men ’ s long jump . Another hugely exciting performance saw Akani Simbine become not only the first South African to reach an Olympic men ’ s 100m final since readmission in 1992 , but since Reggie Walker won the gold in 1908 in London .
Images : Roger Sedres / ImageSA & Tim Hipps / Wikimedia & courtesy BackTrackSports
20 ISSUE 143 JULY 2021 / www . modernathlete . co . za