Almost 18 months into Canada’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canadian Olympic Committee on Monday sought to make a statement about the value of communal effort in the face of adversity, naming a pair of athletes from two different team sports as flag bearers for the Tokyo Summer Games opening ceremony.
Three-time Olympic basketball player Miranda Ayim and Nathan Hirayama, a co-captain of the men’s rugby sevens team who is making his first Olympic appearance, will carry the Canadian flag on Friday.
“These games will be a celebration not only of the accomplishments of our athletes, but of the collective resilience and focus it has taken all of us to navigate the challenges of the pandemic,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who made the announcement in a pre-recorded video message posted online.
“Selecting our flag bearer wasn’t about looking for our brightest star power, it was about reflecting the brilliance and the character of the whole team,” said Marnie McBean, Canada’s chef de mission for the Tokyo Games, during a video press conference after the announcement.
“With the unprecedented hurdles presented by the pandemic, as well as the associated training and qualification challenges, team sports represent unity and overcoming challenges together. It was a natural choice to choose leaders of teams to be our Team Canada leaders.”
McBean noted that it was not yet clear whether Ayim and Hirayama will share a flag, as she and her rowing teammate Kathleen Heddle did during the closing ceremony for the 1996 Summer Games, or instead carry two separate flags due to COVID-19-related restrictions. “I don’t know how that’s going to work,” said McBean, in another indication of how the pandemic has scrambled decision-making for these Games. “There’s a meeting on the protocol for that tomorrow.”
This marks only the second time two flag bearers will lead Team Canada in the opening ceremony, after Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games.
Team Canada’s pool of available flag bearers was limited by protocols that preclude athletes from arriving in Tokyo more than five days before their first competition. Canada is sending 370 athletes, but most will not be present for either the opening or closing ceremonies, as protocols also require them to leave within 48 hours of concluding their competitions.
Delegations in the parade of nations will be limited to athletes, rather than including support staff, who typically also take part.
McBean spoke from Tokyo, where some of the Canadian athletes, including members of the softball and rowing teams, have already moved into the Olympic Village. Ayim was in Kariya City, more than four hours’ drive from Tokyo, where the Canadian women’s basketball team has been training and acclimating to the withering Japanese weather. Hirayama was in Langford, B.C.
Men’s rugby action begins on Sunday. The Canadian women’s basketball team plays Serbia in the preliminary round next Monday.
The selection of Ayim and Hirayama marks the first time a Canadian delegation for a Summer Games will be led by team athletes, rather than the more common practice of selecting likely medalists from individual competitions. Hockey star Danielle Goyette carried the flag during the 2006 Winter Games in Turin; her team went on to win the gold medal that year.
“We definitely recognize that team sports are usually not selected for this role,” Ayim said. “I think it’s a perfect opportunity and it’s a beautiful image of what we’ve gone through this past year and a half. Team sport is a whole different beast. There are so many things going on: for sure, the high-performance component, but as well the working together as a team, dealing with all sorts of different undercurrents and contexts and personalities, and I think that’s what we all recognize on a day-to-day basis, whether you’re at home or in the business world or wherever you are, we all deal with that. So I think that reflects the general population of Canada, and I think it’s a really beautiful image.”
The women’s basketball team has made strides over the past decade, reaching the quarter-finals in the last two Summer Games. Currently ranked fourth by FIBA, the team is hoping to score a medal in Tokyo.
The men’s rugby sevens squad failed to qualify for the Games in 2016, the first time rugby was an official Olympic sport. The Canadian team is ranked eighth in the world going into these Games.
Hirayama’s father, Garry, was a member of Canada’s first men’s rugby sevens squad, playing for the national team between 1977 and 1982, making them the country’s first father and son duo in the sport.
The selection of Ayim and Hirayama also marks the first time that a BIPOC athlete has been named to carry the Canadian flag in the opening ceremony since Charmaine Crooks was given the honour in 1996.
“I think as soon as you become a professional athlete and you represent Canada on a stage, you know immediately that you’ve become a role model to young and old alike, so that’s constantly something that is on my mind,” Ayim said. “I do recognize also that representation matters, so if someone is looking up to me and feels like their dreams are more attainable because of myself or Nate or any of my teammates out there, I think that is just a net win.”
Hirayama added: “It’s something that’s not taken lightly. We have a responsibility as role models.”
More people watched Seattle NHL expansion draft on ESPN2 than Cubs-Cards on ESPN – Awful Announcing
In the grand scheme of things, 637,000 viewers nationally is not a huge number for a cable channel with any level of significant distribution. Most things on broadcast TV not only beat that, but beat it by quite a bit, and that kind of number isn’t usually even amongst the top cable broadcasts. However, the news that ESPN2 pulled that number in for its (NHL-produced, but featuring ESPN figures) coverage of the NHL expansion draft for the Seattle Kraken Wednesday night was certainly interesting, especially as so much of the actual news around that draft was reported in advance, and also given that their main-network coverage of the MLB game between the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals drew fewer viewers. Here’s a comparison of Wednesday night sporting events from John Ourand of Sports Business Journal:
Sports TV of note from Weds:
AEW Dynamite on TNT: 1.148 million viewers
Primetime Oly programming on NBCSN: 773,000
PTI on ESPN: 648,000 viewers
NHL Expansion Draft on ESPN2: 637,000 viewers
Cubs-Cardinals on ESPN: 509,000 viewers
— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) July 22, 2021
On the negative side, that draft didn’t even draw the numbers of studio show Pardon The Interruption (however, that airs on ESPN rather than ESPN2; they’re similar in distribution, but many people turn on main ESPN first). It also didn’t draw the numbers of early Olympic programming from NBCSN. On the positive side, it outdrew a national MLB game. And it drew more than the Vegas Golden Knights’ expansion draft five years ago (595,000 on NBCSN for a combined broadcast of that draft and the NHL Awards). And it’s a good sign for ESPN, as this is their first big NHL event they aired under their new deal.
And yes, as Ourand noted in a follow-up tweet, that Cubs-Cards game didn’t have regional sports network blackouts, so Cubs and Cardinals fans could still watch it on their local RSNs. And most probably did, so it likely primarily pulled the national audience that didn’t have those RSNs. But it’s still interesting to see an ESPN2 event outdraw an ESPN event, especially when the ESPN event is a live game and the ESPN2 event is a one-team expansion draft (and one where most of the information was previously available to the public).
If ESPN versus ESPN2 programming decisions were made strictly from a standpoint of what they thought would draw more viewers, this result would go against that. That’s not entirely the case here, as the MLB on ESPN package comes with some restrictions on where games can air. But it’s still interesting to see the NHL expansion draft on ESPN2 outdraw a live MLB game between two prominent teams.
That is also perhaps further evidence that draft “spoilers” don’t always damage the ratings that much. That’s long been a debate, from the NFL’s heavy pushes against pick-tipping to the NBA’s more moderate approach (which sees pick-tipping still happen with some different language, and which hasn’t really led to obvious ratings losses).
In the case of this draft, figures who don’t work for expansion draft rightsholders Sportsnet (Canada) and ESPN (U.S.) reported many of the picks early, with Frank Seravalli (formerly of TSN, now of Daily Faceoff) and Pierre LeBrun (TSN/The Athletic) getting many of those, other national figures getting some more, and local reporters getting some others. So a mostly-full picture was available before the broadcast for those who wanted to find it. But that didn’t stop a significant amount of people from watching this, and that maybe shows that the league pushes against pick-tipping aren’t always that impactful.
[John Ourand on Twitter]
Cleveland changes MLB team nickname to Guardians after months of discussion – CBC.ca
Known as the Indians since 1915, Cleveland’s Major League Baseball team will be called Guardians.
The ball club announced the name change Friday with a video on Twitter narrated by actor Tom Hanks, ending months of internal discussions triggered by a national reckoning by institutions and teams to permanently drop logos and names that are considered racist.
Together, we are all… <a href=”https://t.co/R5FnT4kv1I”>pic.twitter.com/R5FnT4kv1I</a>
The choice of Guardians will undoubtedly be criticized by many of the club’s die-hard fans.
The organization spent most of the past year whittling down a list of potential names that was at nearly 1,200 just over a month ago. But the process quickly accelerated and the club landed on Guardians.
Social unrest spurred name change
Team owner Paul Dolan said last summer’s social unrest, touched off by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, spurred his intention to change the name.
Dolan is expected to provide more details on the choice and background on the change at a news conference at Progressive Field before Cleveland hosts the Tampa Bay Rays.
Dolan said the new name mirrors the city and its people.
“Cleveland has and always will be the most important part of our identity,” he said in a statement. “Therefore, we wanted a name that strongly represents the pride, resiliency and loyalty of Clevelanders. ‘Guardians’ reflects those attributes that define us.”
In 2018, the team stopped wearing the contentious Chief Wahoo logo on their jerseys and caps. However, the team continues to sell merchandise bearing the smiling, red-faced caricature that was protested for decades by Native American groups.
The name change has sparked lively debate among the city’s passionate sports fans. Other names, including the Spiders, which is what the team was once called, were pushed by supporters on social media platforms.
But Guardians does seem to fit the team’s objective to find a name that embodies Cleveland’s ethos while preserving the team’s history and uniting the community.
Not far from the downtown ballpark, there are two large landmark stone edifices — referred to as guardians — on the Hope Memorial Bridge over the Cuyahoga River.
The team’s colours will remain the same, and the new Guardians’ new logos will incorporate some of the architectural features of the bridge.
The change comes as the Washington Football Team continues to work toward a similar makeover. The franchise dropped its name before the 2020 season and said it will reveal a new name and logo in 2022.
LIVE BLOG: Opening ceremony kicks off 2020 Olympics in Tokyo – Global News
The Olympic Games opening ceremony is typically a chance for competing countries and athletes to show off their pride and culture, but this year will be a little different.
Normally held in a stadium full of ecstatic fans, this year’s ceremony will have international athletes parade around a near-empty venue after it was announced fans would not be allowed to attend because of rising COVID-19 cases in Japan.
Athletes from around the world, including Canada, are taking part in the ceremony for the Summer Games, which will run until Aug. 8.
Canada has sent 370 athletes to the Olympics, the nation’s largest delegation since 1984.
Team Canada names flag-bearers for Tokyo Olympic Games
But only 30 to 40 athletes are marching into the Olympic Stadium, the Canadian Olympic Committee has previously said, saying athletes aren’t allowed into the Olympic Village until five days before they compete.
Many of them will be too close to the start of their competition to join flagbearers Miranda Ayim of the women’s basketball team and men’s rugby sevens co-captain Nathan Hirayama.
The ceremony’s theme is “United by Emotion,” as officials are aspiring to reaffirm the role of sport and the value of the Olympic Games, express gratitude and admiration for the efforts made over the past year, and also bring a sense of hope for the future, the Olympics website says.
Despite all the difficulties the International Olympic Committee has faced to stage the Games amid a global pandemic, president Thomas Bach previously said he believes the ceremonies will be a moment of “joy and relief.”
The event runs from 7 a.m. ET to 11 a.m. ET
You can follow along here.
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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