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An Olympics happening in Japan — yet cut off from it –



The CBC has arrived in Tokyo this week for the 2020 Olympic Games. A week out from the opening ceremony, Adrienne Arsenault takes a look at how officials are trying to keep athletes and members of the media contained in an effort to limit any risk of COVID-19 spreading.

Keeping an eye on it all must feel like herding cats. The opening ceremony for the Summer Olympics in Tokyo is a week away and athletes, officials and members of the world’s media are starting to pour through the airports in a city really uneasy about opening the doors.

Right on cue, the concerns from Tokyo are getting louder. Restrictions for all are getting tighter.

Spectators, domestic and international, already know they cannot attend the events. Thousands of volunteers are being told they are no longer needed.

And now the Tokyo 2020 organizers say they will be restricting access around the cauldron, the fan zones and fan activity centres. There is not much left for the Japanese to possibly get out of the experience except for watching it all unfold on television.

  • Follow CBC’s Tokyo 2020 coverage here.

The last-minute, although arguably inevitable, restrictions are because of the last-minute, although arguably inevitable, spike in coronavirus cases. 

Officials have blocked off the area around the Olympic cauldron in Tokyo and asked that members of the public not visit the area. (Makiko Segawa/CBC)

Tokyo on Thursday reported its highest COVID-19 numbers in six months, with officials confirming 1,308 new cases. The city is in its fourth state of emergency but the subway is still busy, restaurants are still open, people are still going to work. And the vaccine rollout is still a struggle.  

Roughly 30 per cent of people in the country have had just a single shot. So there is anxiety and fatigue. And certainly there is frustration about all the arrivals.

A bold promise

IOC president Thomas Bach said Thursday there is “zero risk” that Olympic visitors will infect anyone in this city because positive cases would be isolated immediately.

That is a bold promise. And people are not seemingly calmed by it, with protests expected on Friday.

There is, instead, a motivated push to ensure rules are respected and deviators, unwitting or otherwise, are sanctioned.

A call for stricter punishments was even raised in parliament Thursday.

WATCH | COVID-19 cases rise in Tokyo ahead of Olympics:

No spectators, no fan zone, no Olympic cauldron viewing. The CBC’s Adrienne Arsenault has landed in Tokyo and reports on the tightening of restrictions that increasingly separate the Japanese from their own Olympic Games. (Hiro Komae/AP Photo) 6:49

Athletes who are already coming without most of their support networks are now staying in bubbles for the least amount of time necessary. They are not allowed to go to restaurants, tourist sites, stores or ride on public transportation. And they’ve just been told no one will be hanging medals around their necks on the podiums. Instead, the medals will be put on a tray.  They will have to put them on themselves.

That is a restriction many likely didn’t see coming. 

Restrictions for members of the media work like this:

There is no decree that those showing up be vaccinated, but reportedly about 80 per cent of those attending are anyway. At least two PCR COVID tests have to be performed within 96 and 72 hours before departing for Japan. Before arriving, a series of contact tracing and overt surveillance apps have to be uploaded to the phone.

Before getting to Tokyo for the Games, contact tracing and surveillance apps must be uploaded to phones used by members of the media. (Adrienne Arsenault/CBC)

People have to accept that they must fill out health forms and take temperatures daily and in some cases, as with CBC’s news team, there will be daily COVID tests. There must be a commitment to keep the GPS on phones turned on at all times. Upon arrival at the airport, a rapid test is performed.

Once cleared, accredited people are transported to their various accommodations.

No walking around outside

For the first 14 days, there is a type of “soft quarantine.” That means going only between the hotel and a pre-approved location and there’s no getting out of the car en route. 

No public transportation, no walking around outside either. No meeting with residents in public. No leaving the hotel except for an allowed 15-minute window to go to and return from a convenience store.

Other rules are evolving and confusion is setting in. There are no media villages as in past Games, so crews are housed in various hotels. 

But here’s where it gets complicated. There are, at times, members of the general public in those hotels, too. So, hallways and breakfast rooms are places where mixing can happen. 

Officials prepare to administer COVID-19 tests to members of the U.S. gymnastics team and other people at Narita International Airport on Thursday. (Issei Kato/Reuters)

Something certainly seems to have happened at a hotel where Brazilian athletes are staying. Seven staff members tested positive. The athletes are reportedly all negative but everyone is on edge. Chinese officials are upset about members of the Japanese public still staying in and visiting the hotel where Chinese athletes are staying.

Put this all together and you end up, one week out, with an Olympics happening in Japan yet severed from Japan. 

It will take work to inject joy into the experience for all, especially for a host city that has already given so much and is now being asked for more.

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Canadiens’ salary cap situation heading into the draft & free agency – Habs Eyes on the Prize



Some of the biggest stories of the off-season so far have revolved around the Montreal Canadiens. First, Shea Weber’s hockey future was thrown into doubt by reports of a serious injury, and the belief now is that his career is “probably” over, according to general manager Marc Bergevin.

The key bit of news when the Seattle Kraken expansion draft was approaching was that Carey Price was dealing with a less serious injury, but would nevertheless potentially miss the start of the new season. As a result he waived his no-movement clause and was available to be selected by the new team.

Seattle shied away from the $10.5-million cap hit, however, leaving Price unclaimed and free to re-enable his NMC to stay in Montreal.

Salary cap information via CapFriendly
Justin Blades/EOTP

That cap hit remains the largest on the team. Technically Weber’s is the second-highest on the books at almost $8 million, but he will likely be put on long-term injured reserve. For the intents and purposes of this graphic, removing his slice from the chart serves the same purpose; that cap space is free to be spent on other players.

There are six defencemen under contract for next season who played on the team in 2020-21, but Bergevin will want someone more of Weber’s calibre to take top-four minutes. Expect that to be one of his top priorities, and the first-round pick in tonight’s draft could be in play to acquire such a blue-liner.

He also needs to get a centreman to take big minutes against top players, because it’s sounding like Phillip Danault won’t be back with the team. Nick Suzuki has established himself as the top offensive option down the middle, but the team will be trying to add a number-two to back him up.

We also heard on Thursday that Jonathan Drouin is expected to play next year, so there are now eight forwards signed for next season, with five to six more to go. Restricted free agents Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Artturi Lehkonen can probably be re-signed relatively inexpesively, the former getting a birdge deal hoping to cash in a few seasons from now, and the latter a reliable bottom-six player. Corey Perry may also be offered a deal, but his interest in sticking around may depend on how Bergevin is able to restore the team’s contender status via his other moves.

There is a bit more than $21 million available to make this all happen. A small portion of the available space is eaten up by a bonus overage penalty the Canadiens were handed, but having your young players perform too well in the post-season is far from the worst problem an NHL team is facing. There are more young prospects who could step into lesser roles without needing big financial commitments, so there could be a major splash — or two — made in the coming days.

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Down Goes Brown: Let's painstakingly build the worst possible team-by-team first round in NHL Draft history – The Athletic



Last year, in the aftermath of the NHL Draft, I took on a challenge from a reader. They wanted me to come up with the ultimate first round, one where I’d use one pick from each team to create the best possible list of 31 choices. I threw in a bunch of rules to make it overly complicated and got to work, and this was the final result.

People seemed to like it. We debated the picks in the comments, readers argued about which teams got shafted, and a few of you even tried to make your own version.

And then, as always, came the request: OK, now do the same thing but for the worst picks.

Yeah, I knew this was coming. So now, as we count down to the first round of the 2021 draft, that’s what we’re going to do.

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Tokyo Olympics officially begin under spectre of pandemic – Al Jazeera English



The opening ceremony marks the beginning of the Summer Games, delayed by a year and held under unprecedented restrictions.

The opening ceremony of the Summer Olympic Games has begun in Tokyo, with a blaze of white and indigo fireworks officially kicking off the quadrennial international sporting event being held under the unprecedented circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic.

Japan’s Emperor Naruhito and Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach were followed by a small delegation carrying the Japanese flag as they entered Friday’s ceremony, which was initially scheduled to be held about a year earlier before its postponement due to surging COVID-19 infections across the world.

The procession was followed by a moment of silence for victims of the pandemic, as well as Israeli Olympians killed during the 1972 Munich games, before the first of an expected 5,700 athletes began streaming into the ceremony.

Only a few hundred dignitaries and special guests, including French President Emmanuel Macron and US First Lady Jill Biden, were allowed into the 68,000-capacity New National Stadium after games officials decided to largely bar spectators. International and domestic fans have been banned from all venues in Tokyo.

Top sponsors, including Toyota and Panasonic, also opted not to send their representatives to the opening event, with polls showing the Japanese public remaining largely against moving forward with the sprawling gathering in which about 11,000 athletes will contest 339 medal events across 50 disciplines in 33 sports over two weeks.

Japan’s flag is carried during the opening ceremony. [Leah Millis/Reuters]

Days preceding the ceremony have been defined by positive tests among athletes, officials and their small teams of support staff amid fears the games could become a super-spreader event.

On Friday, the number of Olympic-related infections since July 1 stood at 106, dashing the hopes of some athletes who have trained for years to qualify and forcing some events to already dip into carefully tailored contingency plans designed to assure the competition can proceed.

Concerns of further infection were on full display on Friday, with some country’s teams, notably Brazil, opting to send only their flagbearers as representatives at the ceremony.

Nevertheless, hundreds of people began gathering outside the Olympic Stadium on Friday hoping for a glimpse of what is usually an opportunity for the hosting country to offer an elaborate spectacle highlighting their history and culture to audiences watching around the world.

A small group of protesters also gathered outside of the event.

Anti-Olympics protesters gather outside the opening ceremony. ‘[Issei Kato/Reuters]

Reporting from outside the ceremony, Al Jazeera’s Andy Richardson said, “There’s a sense of almost disbelief hanging around this stadium.”

“There has been so much talk about this over the last 12 months – but here we are,” he said, adding that the planners of the event have said the programme will be “sombre and in sync with the sentiment of today, what this country and the world is going through with the pandemic.”

“The opening ceremony has always been a pretty integral part of the Games in showcasing the country’s national identity, but I don’t think many host cities have had to pull off quite such a balancing act to win over such a sceptical public,” he said.

Performers are seen during the opening ceremony. [Stefan Wermuth/Reuters]

Meanwhile, Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga sought to frame the games as the beginning of a return to normalcy after a year and a half of global uncertainty as he urged the athletes “to fully demonstrate their abilities and show us their very best performances”.

“The sight of athletes aiming to be the very best in the world gives dreams and courage to young people and children and deeply moves them,” he said in a video posted on Twitter.

Still, questions over the wisdom of moving forward with the games were not the only cloud to loom over Friday’s event.

In a last-minute scandal, the opening ceremony’s director, Kentaro Kobayashi, was fired on Thursday over jokes he made in the 1990s about the Holocaust.

Officials said the dismissal would not affect the programme.

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