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How safe are the Tokyo Olympics from COVID-19? – Al Jazeera English

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After a year-long delay, the Tokyo Olympics is finally happening.

But there is little excitement in the Japanese capital, where an estimated 85,000 people – including athletes, officials and reporters – are expected to converge for the global sporting event’s opening ceremony on Friday.

With the world still in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic and the Olympic host city in its fourth virus-related state of emergency, a largely unvaccinated Japanese public is worried the Summer Games could turn into a super-spreader event and overwhelm the country’s already strained healthcare system.

Adding to those concerns, at least 91 people accredited to the Olympics have now tested positive for COVID-19, while daily cases in Tokyo are currently at their highest in six months. The Japanese capital logged 1,979 new infections on Thursday.

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Public opposition to the Games is so fierce that top corporate sponsor Toyota has pulled Olympic-themed advertisements from Japanese television, while a growing number of politicians and business leaders are shunning the Summer Games opening ceremony. Even Emperor Naruhito is said to be considering omitting the word “celebrating” when he formally declares the sport tournament open on Friday.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC), however, insists that the Games – where nearly all spectators, local and foreign, have been banned – will be “safe and secure”.

The for-profit sporting body, which stood to lose $3bn in broadcast rights if the Games were cancelled completely, said 85 percent of all athletes arriving in Japan are either vaccinated or immune and insists that its safety measures mean the athletes are “probably the most controlled population at this point of time anywhere in the world”.

‘Broken’ Olympic bubbles

The IOC’s COVID-19 playbooks state that Olympic visitors must have two negative test results in the 96 hours prior to their arrival in Japan and have another negative result on landing. They must also download location-enabled contact tracing apps on their phones and limit their movements while in the country to specific “bubbles”.

At Tokyo’s Olympic Village, which is hosting about 11,000 people, athletes are sharing rooms, but are undergoing daily coronavirus tests and being asked to wear face masks at all times – except when they are sleeping, eating or competing. Athletes who win gold, silver or bronze will also be asked to place their medals around their own necks, and those who complete their events are required to leave the country within two days of their last event.

Christophe Dubi, executive director at the IOC, described the sporting body’s rules on Sunday as “rigorous”, “thorough” and “very strict”.

“There is no such thing as zero risk,” he told reporters in Tokyo. “At the same time,” he added, “the mingling and crossing of the population is incredibly limited, and we can ensure that transmission between groups is almost impossible.”

Worries, however, are growing in Japan that the IOC’s measures are neither properly enforced nor adequate.

Japan Self-Defence Forces soldiers stand guard at the athletes’ village for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, in Tokyo, Japan, July 22, 2021 [Naoki Ogura/Reuters]
Athletes and people wearing protective face masks arrive at Narita International Airport before the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games [Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters]

On Monday, the Mainichi newspaperreported “disarray” at airports receiving people accredited to the Olympics, “with some athletes coming close to general travellers and fans asking for autographs”.

The Asahi Shimbun also reported last week that several Olympic delegates stopped to take selfies and fist bump other passengers at the airports, adding that hotels in Tokyo were struggling to monitor the movements of those staying with them. Hotel workers are “exasperated by their supposed roles in maintaining the bubble around Olympic delegations”, the newspaper said, quoting one manager as saying, “It’s not even our job to begin with.”

Kenji Shibuya, a prominent Japanese health expert, said the IOC’s bubble system “seems broken” even before the formal start of the Games.

“The IOC playbooks are not perfect, and many visitors and delegates are not following the guidelines,” said the former director of the Institute for Population Health at King’s­­ College London. He warned that the IOC’s inability to monitor the movements of tens of thousands of visitors – combined with the border authorities’ use of antigen tests, which have “a higher probability of false negatives when compared with PCR tests” – could worsen the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant in Japan.

“The fundamental problem has been a lack of open, transparent and scientific discussion on the conditions under which the Olympics could be held in a safe and secure manner,” he said. “Japan is in its fourth state of emergency and the number of cases in Tokyo is increasing. Hospitalisation among those aged between 40 and 50 is also increasing. Globally, the Delta variant is spreading rapidly and the vaccine rollout is limited in many countries, including Japan – this is obviously not the right time to hold the Olympics.”

A majority of the Japanese public agree with that sentiment, while a staggering 68 percent of people surveyed by the Asahi Shimbun earlier this week also said they did not believe the Games could be held safely.

IOC ‘failed’

Annie Sparrow, assistant professor of health science and policy at the US-based Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, said the IOC could have avoided the “debacle now unfolding at the Tokyo Olympics” if it had listened to expert advice.

Sparrow, who reviewed the IOC’s playbooks in a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, said the organisation settled for “cheap measures that don’t work rather than scientifically proven ways that do”. What the IOC recommends is based on an outdated understanding of how COVID-19 spreads, she said – that the illness is transmitted only by large droplets that fall to earth quickly rather than small particles that linger and spread in the air.

The IOC and local organisers must immediately set in place measures that limit aerosol transmission, including placing hospital-grade air filters or “HEPA filters in every hotel room, every venue, every transport vehicle, every cafeteria and every shared space”, she said.

Athletes wearing protective face masks at the Athletes Village [Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters]
Protesters gather before International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach visits Hiroshima Memorial Cenotaph on July 16, 2021, in Hiroshima, western Japan. The banner in the centre reads: ‘Bach, Do not come to Hiroshima!’ [Nuga Haruka/Pool via AP]

Athletes must also be housed in single rooms and given proper face masks.

“Face coverings won’t protect them,” she said, adding that athletes should use filtering facepiece respirators, such as the N95 respirators, while in close-contact settings such as transport vehicles.

“Test everyone, not just the athletes, everyone in the village,” she said, expressing concern about what she called inadequate protections for Olympic workers. “And vaccinate all of the workers, all the volunteers, all the officials.”

What also worries Sparrow is that the Olympics could become a mega-spreader event globally. The IOC and local organisers must “do real-time genomic testing so athletes don’t unwittingly take a variant home to unvaccinated unprotected populations with variable or marginal healthcare infrastructure,” she said.

Less than 24 hours remain for the Summer Games opening ceremony, but many in Japan say it is still not too late to call the event off.

“There’s no way to hold an event like this safely,” said Satoko Itani, associate professor at Kansai University in Japan.

“The IOC had one year to prepare, they failed. So, cancellation is the safest way to go.”

She added, “People’s lives are on the line. And as a host country, our utmost responsibility is to protect people’s lives. At this point, the best we can do is to cancel this Olympics as soon as possible.”

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What 2022 Holds for the Canadian Sports Betting Sector

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After years of confusing legislation, Canada finally achieved some clarity with regard to its sports betting laws earlier this year. The passing of Bill C-218 saw single event betting become legalized for the first time, paving the way for sportsbooks and online operators to begin serving Canadian customers all across the country.

Since then, the industry has gone from strength to strength. Unsurprisingly, Ontario has led the way in terms of online competition, with a wide array of options for punters to choose from. Home to some 15 million people, Ontario is the fifth biggest jurisdiction in the USA and Canada and is expected to rival the likes of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Michigan in the coming years.

So with sports betting finally up and running in a more comprehensive format in Canada, what does the future hold? Here’s a quick look ahead to some of the biggest developments that are expected to occur in the next 12 months.

Mobile gaming

The ability to place bets on-the-go is something that customers have come to expect from their sportsbooks nowadays. Although the idea of sports betting on single events is still a relative novelty for many Canadians, it won’t be long before they begin to demand a truly mobile experience from their gambling provider, allowing them the freedom to lay wagers wherever, whenever and on whatever they please.

Thankfully, there is already a healthy infrastructure in place to deal with that demand. The list of sports betting apps in Canada is growing longer by the day, with sportsbook operators giving their customers round-the-clock access to better odds, up-to-the-minute stats and exclusive promotions and bonuses. There’s an app for everything these days – so it should come as no surprise that an increasing percentage of Canadians will choose to bet on their smartphone via the app in the coming months and years.

Greater competition

Even before the passing of Bill C-218 officially endorsed sports betting from a legal perspective, overseas operators had been serving a Canadian market for years. Although the practice was not legal prior to this summer, it wasn’t strictly illegal, either. This created a grey area which many foreign sportsbooks exploited, with some reports suggesting that billions of dollars were being funneled into them every year.

Now that the practice has become fair game for domestic operators, it should open the floodgates with regard to the number of available options. Early adopters and established names in the industry were quick to jump aboard the bandwagon, but more and more rivals will spring up as time goes on. This can only be good news for punters, since they will gain access to more lucrative incentives and better markets with the increased competition.

Booming popularity

As well as increased competition among operators, it’s also likely that this excess supply will be met by ballooning demand. Indeed, a particularly bullish report from Deloitte Canada speculated that the industry could be worth a massive $28 billion inside five years. Given that it isn’t projected to exceed $1 billion in its first 12 months of operation, that’s quite a seismic shift.

What that means for players is that sports betting is likely to become endorsed and advertised with greater frequency. Collaborations between teams and individual athletes will enhance the profile of the sector, while lucrative sponsorship deals will benefit both parties. And of course, the government itself is poised to cash in on a significant revenue stream, potentially swelling its coffers for reinvestment in other areas of policy.

Technological advances

Another exciting possibility is the increased incorporation of technological advances into the sports betting experience. Fans can already benefit from livestreams of their favorite matches, as well as real-time analysis and in-play betting opportunities. However, the sky is the limit when it comes to tech and sports betting, since there are a variety of tantalizing innovations currently on the horizon.

Chief among these is the possibility of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) becoming a more central pillar of sportsbooks. Imagine if it were possible to view a sporting event in 3D, as if you were in the stadium yourself, all from the comfort of your own home? That kind of tech breakthrough might seem lightyears away, yet similar software is already commonplace in the world of gaming. If it could be adapted to live sporting events, it would dramatically alter the way in which sport is consumed (and bet upon) all across Canada. Watch this space for news on potential developments of VR and AR in 2022.

Although sports betting is still in its infancy in Canada, it has already made quite a splash among punters, operators and regulators alike. As the practice becomes more and more mainstream, it’s to be expected that it will both deliver higher revenues and benefit from greater investment – potentially creating some exciting times ahead.

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Longtime NFL official Carl Madsen dies on way home from Chiefs-Titans – Yahoo Canada Sports

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Carl Madsen had worked for the NFL since 1997. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

Carl Madsen, who had worked for the NFL as an official for more than 20 years, died on Sunday. He was 71.

According to NFL.com, Madsen died on his way home from Sunday’s game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tennessee Titans, where he was working as a replay official.

While details are hazy on Madsen’s death, the Nashville Police Department told TMZ that early signs indicate Madsen suffered “a medical emergency” while driving on I-65 North. A spokesperson reportedly said officers answered a call about a motorist blocking a traffic lane and found Madsen unconscious at the scene.

Chest compressions were immediately administered once Madsen was removed from the vehicle, per the report, but he ultimately died after being transported to a nearby hospital. His exact cause of death remains unknown.

An Air Force veteran, Madsen spent 12 years as an on-field official from 1997 to 2008 before transitioning to his replay official role. He was reportedly tied with Paul Weidner as the league’s most experienced replay official.

From NFL.com:

“Carl Madsen was an NFL officiating fixture for more than two decades, first as a highly respected on-field official before transitioning to a replay role beginning in 2009,” NFL senior VP of officiating training and development Walt Anderson said in a statement. “A terrific friend and colleague, Carl’s love of football and dedication to officiating was ever-present, as he generously shared his time to mentor young officials at clinics across the country. A veteran of the Air Force, Carl had a tremendous spirit and will be greatly missed.”

NFL Referees Association president Scott Green also released a statement to Pro Football Talk:

“Carl will be missed by those who worked with him on the field and in replay,” Green said. “He had a nickname among his fellow officials of “Big Country” which was not only related to his size but to his big personality as a warm and generous man.”

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Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Campbell, Spezza, Engvall, Calling Leaders – The Hockey Writers

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Where did Saturday’s game come from? In the three seasons that I’ve covered the Toronto Maple Leafs, it was one of the strangest games I watched. The team was overwhelmed. There was every chance to come in and play well against what should have been an under-manned Pittsburgh Penguins’ squad; but, a final score of 7-1 for the Penguins shows it didn’t happen. 

Related: Frederik Andersen’s Legacy: One of the Best Maple Leafs’ Goalies Ever

The question that remains for the Maple Leafs as a team is whether this current funk is a short one or whether it’s symptomatic of deeper issues. There’s a saying attributed to William Arthur Ward that “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”

The question now is what the Maple Leafs will do to adjust the sails. Although there’s great value in optimism, for as optimistic a face as head coach Sheldon Keefe shows the public, having watched him in the Amazon Prime Documentary “All or Nothing,” you have to know Keefe isn’t singing “Kum Ba Yah” behind the scenes when he’s not answering the media’s questions. 

Keefe’s a realist and is surrounded by realists. What will happen now? In this edition of Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at Jack Campbell’s odd night. Second, I’ll look at Jason Spezza’s continuing contributions to the team. Finally, I’ll consider Maple Leafs’ current team leadership.

Item One: Time for a Jack Campbell Mulligan

The stats line shows that Maple Leafs’ starting goalie Jack Campbell let in five goals on 21 shots during Saturday’s 7-1 loss to the Penguins. That isn’t the Campbell we know from either last season or thus far this season. The second period did him in when he let in four goals in 20 minutes.

By the third, coach Keefe had enough and put in Michael Hutchinson to close out the obvious defeat. Given that the 29-year-old Campbell entered the game with a 2-0-1 season’s record, a goals-against-average of 1.18, and a save percentage of .953 in four games, he deserves a mulligan. 

Jack Campbell, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Honestly, it’s hard for me to lay a guilt trip on a goalie who had, until Saturday’s game, only given up two or fewer goals in each of his first four starts. Here’s hoping, although Campbell might have fallen in one game, that he can get up quickly.

Item Two: Jason Spezza Continues to Produce

No surprise, the one player whose game seemed unaffected by the circumstances was Jason Spezza. He scored a goal to tie the game early and gave Maple Leafs’ fans early hope that all was not lost. It was the last goal the team would score.

Related: Ron Francis’ 5 Best & Worst Moves as Hurricanes General Manager

Spezza continues to show up. In six games to start the 2021-22 campaign, he’s scored three goals and added two assists (for five points). Last season, he scored 10 goals and 20 assists (for 30 points) in 54 games. He shows no signs of a let-up.

Item Three: How Did Pierre Engvall Emerge with a Plus-One Rating?

One amazing scoresheet surprise has to be that Pierre Engvall emerged with a plus-one rating on the night. How does a player play 13:21 minutes during a 7-1 loss and come out on the positive side of the ledger? I have no comment on Engvall’s game because I didn’t notice the statistic until I looked at the box score after the game. 

Pierre Engvall Toronto Maple Leafs
Pierre Engvall, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Engvall had an assist on Spezza’s goal but was miraculously not on for any Penguins’ goals. That just seems amazing and was perhaps the only positive statistic the Maple Leafs can show for the game.

Item Four: Considering Team Leadership

Each offseason the team’s management gets together to talk about what moves it can make during the offseason to improve the team. Last season, the management decided to bring in outside players to provide leadership. Chief among those players was Joe Thornton. I believe he provided that aspect of leadership and the team was better for his presence. Even if his play was less than expected, he helped the team.

Related: 3 Takeaways From Maple Leafs’ 7-1 Loss to Penguins

During this offseason, I believe management thought it was time for the team’s internal leadership to take the next leadership step. Specifically, it was time for Jake Muzzin, Morgan Rielly, John Tavares, Auston Matthews, and Mitch Marner to take the reins. The team’s management reasoned that group had seasoned enough to do that job. In addition, Wayne Simmonds and Spezza remained to help.

As a result, this season, the team is different because management didn’t bring in outside players for leadership. That leadership now must come from within – starting with Matthews, Marner, and Tavares. The results on the ice suggest that it hasn’t happened yet. 

Auston Matthews John Tavares
Toronto Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews celebrates with teammate John Tavares (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)

As my sometimes collaborator and long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith emailed me after the game, if these players are to lead they’ll have to do it by example. So far, it isn’t happening – not yet anyway, 

If this team is to come out of its current crisis, that leadership must emerge soon.

What’s Next for This Maple Leafs?

The Maple Leafs must try to shake off this blowout before they meet ex-teammate Frederik Andersen and the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday. You can only imagine that Andersen is waiting to exact some payback against his old team. 

Related: Frederik Andersen’s Unforgivable Sin According To Maple Leafs Fans

Winning in Carolina won’t be easy for the Maple Leafs. The Hurricanes are 4 – 0. Andersen’s only given up seven goals in four games, and he’ll be ready. It might be another disaster, or it could be a chance for redemption. That it’s the Maple Leafs’ third game in four nights, this one might take some lucky bounces or the immediate emergence of Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.

Is it too naive for Maple Leafs’ fans to be optimistic?

The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).

If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.

Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.

He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf

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