A tugboat moves a symbol installed for the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on a barge moved away from its usual spot off the Odaiba Marine Park in Tokyo Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020. Olympic trampoline champion Rosie MacLennan can envision the Tokyo Games going ahead next summer without a COVID-19 vaccine because the NHL, NBA and professional tennis are so far providing successful templates to hold sports events during a pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Hiro Komae

Canadian athletes hopeful Tokyo Games can still happen if no vaccine

Tokyo’s chief executive officer Torisho Muto said recently the Games could go ahead without a vaccine

Some Canadian athletes feel confident the Tokyo Games can happen next summer without a COVID-19 vaccine, but not necessarily because the head of the organizing committee and the International Olympic Committee says so.

Two-time Olympic trampoline champion Rosannagh MacLennan draws assurance from watching the NBA and NHL play games in North American hub cities, as well as the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York.

The gymnast from King City, Ont., believes those sports are providing the templates on how to run a large-scale sporting event during a pandemic without a vaccine.

“I do think it’s possible,” MacLennan told The Canadian Press.

“We look to the professional leagues, and obviously it’s different, but I think we can learn a lot from the bubbles that they’ve created, the policies and practices that they’ve put in place, what worked and what didn’t work.”

Canadian Olympic Committee chief executive officer David Shoemaker concurs pro sports may be paving the road to a 2021 Summer Games.

“The Tokyo 2020 organizing committee and the IOC with support from (the World Health Organization) are committed to holding a simplified and safe Games,” he said in a statement to The Canadian Press.

“The COC is encouraged by what we have seen so far in some pro sports, including European soccer, NBA, NHL, pro golf and pro tennis.

“We will continue to draw many lessons from that to inform our own preparations and consult with our National Sport Organizations using the health and safety of Canadian athletes as our guidepost.”

Canada took the bold step this spring of declaring its athletes wouldn’t compete in Tokyo if the Olympic and Paralympic Games went ahead this summer, citing safety concerns in the advancing pandemic.

Two days later, Tokyo’s organizing committee and the IOC postponed the Games to 2021.

Tokyo’s chief executive officer Torisho Muto said recently the Games could go ahead without a vaccine. IOC member John Coates also stated the Games would happen despite the pandemic.

Olympic wrestling champion Erica Wiebe of Stittsville, Ont., and racewalker Evan Dunfee of Richmond, B.C., can envision it, although they doubt spectators will be able to watch them compete.

Wiebe’s coach Paul Ragusa is also an Alberta Health Services epidemiologist.

“Having him in my corner in wrestling but also just managing and being up to date on what this all looks like from like health perspective, I feel so confident,” Wiebe said.

“I feel like this virus will be around for a long time. Once we get a vaccine, it’s going take a long time to get everybody to a point where they’re vaccinated.

“We’ve seen ways in which we can move forward, though, in workarounds without a vaccine.”

Dunfee acknowledges he feels “jaded” about the IOC’s optimism, although the 50k bronze medallist in last year’s world championship thinks he’ll compete in the Olympic Games next summer.

“Their primary concern is their sponsors. It’s not the athletes,” he said. “They’ll say what they need to say to make sure that their sponsors are happy and confident in getting their value out of it.

“I think the Games will happen without a vaccine, whether or not that it’s something that should be happening … I have no doubt that the IOC will do everything they possibly can to make sure it happens.”

Given the hard stance the COC took on their behalf, the athletes look to team chief medical officer Dr. Mike Wilkinson for guidance on the safety of the Games.

He led a Canadian committee that developed return-to-sport and return-to-competition guidelines, which got the attention of the WHO.

“I’ll take my lead from the support and leadership staff at the COC,” Dunfee said. “I tend to not put too much stock in anything the IOC is saying at this point.”

Added MacLennan: “I think we’re we are in a really fortunate position to have a chief medical officer as strong as Dr. Mike Wilkinson.

“He’s very involved not only within Canada, but internationally. I think that Canadian athletes should take a lot of comfort in knowing that we have really strong experts leading the way.”

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Local author Eleanor Bertin thrilled to mark latest novel release

Bertin joins other authors J.L. Cole and Crystal Stewart for a book signing at Stettler’s Sweet Home on Main on Oct. 3rd

Despite pandemic challenges, the Castor Golf Course has some reasons to celebrate their 2020 season

Projects in 2020 include renovations to the club house kitchen and repairs to the roof from last year’s hailstorm

MP Damien Kurek said the recent Throne Speech lacked direction, leadership and clarity

‘It was vague, it was expensive and it’s very intrusive into provincial jurisdiction.’

Central zone down to 16 active COVID-19 cases

Alberta Health Services’ central zone is down to 16

No safe mask option for bearded members, RCMP says, but force is exploring solutions

RCMP says respirator not mandatory in all front-line situations, but sometimes needed to reduce risk

‘Worst of the worse cases:’ Alberta horse owners on alert for outbreak of fever

An outbreak of the Potomac horse fever has been declared in Alberta

The holiday everyone needs this year: Vote for your favourite in Fat Bear Week 2020

Voters will get to decide who gets to take home this year’s most coveted prize

Canadian ski resorts wrestle with pandemic-vs.-profit dilemma as COVID-19 persists

Few are actually restricting the total number of skiers they allow on the hill

End of CERB means uncertainty for some, new system for others

As of a week ago, the CERB had paid out $79.3 billion to 8.8 million people

No winning ticket for Friday night’s $50 million Lotto Max jackpot

Jackpot for the next draw will grow to approximately $55 million

Wilkinson aims to be B.C. premier after cabinet role, working as doctor and lawyer

The B.C. election is Wilkinson’s first as the Liberal party leader

First Nations police services look to throne speech pledge for higher, stable funding

‘I won’t be happy until I hear two words: royal assent’

Most Read