#TokyoOlympics; #COVID19pandemic; #FridayOpeningCeremony
Tokyo/Canadian-Media: After a year-long delay because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and a series of scandals and constant public grumbling, the Tokyo Olympics got underway Tuesday with the start of the soccer and softball tournaments ahead of Friday’s opening ceremony.
Tokyo Olympics. Image credit: Unsplash
“We promised the world to host the Games,” Seiko Hashimoto, president of the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee, with a quiet determination in her voice tells the assembled media, insisting that “we have to complete our mission,” Los Angeles Times reported.
In spite of the tough questions many times reporters ask, Hashimoto remains calm, and shows no sign of wavering at news conferences held inside the modernistic, gold-sheathed Tokyo Big Sight tower.
With only about 20 percent of Japan residents vaccinated, the Games are pushing stubbornly ahead despite concerns about surging coronavirus cases in Japan.
The Tokyo Olympics leadership — and the International Olympic Committee — have a reason to remain steadfast. They have a lot riding on the next 17 days.
Billions of dollars in broadcast revenue, political fortunes and a sense of national pride are at stake., all of this will play out on a world stage beginning with the opening ceremony Friday evening.
“It’s a kind of psychological and political drama,” says Robert Baade, an economist who studies the Olympics at Lake Forest College in Illinois. “When you study all the outcomes and the dynamics of the relationship between the IOC and Japan, there is so much at play here.”
#UNHCR; #IPC; #RPT; #Tokyo2020ParalympicGames; #ParaAthletics
Tokyo (Japan)/Canadian-Media: The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has today confirmed the six athletes who will represent the Refugee Paralympic Team (RPT) at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. The athletes, one woman and five men, will compete in Para athletics, Para swimming, Para canoe and Para taekwondo, UNHCR reports said.
Abbas Karimi, an Afghan refugee swimmer who was born without arms, trains in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA. © Getty Images/Michael Reaves. Image credit: UNHCR
The team represents the more than 82 million people around the world who have been forced to flee war, persecution, and human rights abuses, 12 million of whom live with a disability. The Chef de Mission for the team is Ileana Rodriguez, a refugee from Cuba who competed in the London 2012 Paralympic Games in swimming for the USA.
Andrew Parsons, IPC President, said: “I would urge people everywhere to support the world’s most courageous sports team, the Refugee Paralympic Team. These athletes exemplify how change starts with sport: they have suffered life-changing injuries, fled for their safety and undertaken dangerous journeys, but despite the many barriers put in their way, they have become elite athletes ready to compete at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
“Sport is a powerful tool to include refugees with disabilities in society and the announcement of the Refugee Paralympic Team is a poignant moment for the IPC – we are delivering on a commitment we made at the UNHCR Global Refugee Forum in 2019 to promote equal participation in sporting events for refugees.”
The IPC is working with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, to provide opportunities for these remarkable Para athletes to tell their stories at the Games and send a strong message of hope and inspiration to others around the world who have been forced to flee. While all refugees face significant challenges, those with disabilities are frequently at heightened risk and face additional barriers to accessing assistance, services, and opportunities.
UNHCR, the IPC and the RPT athletes are calling for a world in which all displaced people – with or without disabilities – can equally access sport and a commitment to an inclusive and equal world for all. RPT athlete Abbas Karimi, who was a member of UNHCR’s Global Youth Advisory Council and who has recently been named a UNHCR High Profile Supporter epitomizes this commitment as a passionate advocate for disabled refugees’ access to and inclusion in sport – at all levels.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi welcomed the announcement.
“I am thrilled to congratulate each of the six athletes named today as members of the IPC Refugee Paralympic Team. I am also immensely proud of our collaboration with the International Paralympic Committee in promoting inclusion of refugees with disabilities in sport. These athletes, as individuals and as a Team, are sending a message of hope and inspiration to refugees around the world. They are truly trailblazers in promoting refugee and disability inclusion, in elite sport and in life, and we hope their example will move us one step closer towards an inclusive and equal world for all,” Grandi said.
The RPT was announced via a video by stars from the worlds of music, sport, literature, stage and screen who champion the refugee cause. They included Goodwill Ambassadors and high profile supporters from UNHCR, the UN Refuge Agency. The athletes on the Refugee Paralympic Team for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games are:
The IPC has been able to support the RPT to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games thanks the generous backing of commercial partners:
Tokyo 2020 President Hashimoto said: “The Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee welcomes the participation of the Refugee Paralympic Team at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, following its debut at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. I hope that the Refugee Team will show the world the endeavour, the resilience and the hope of human beings through sporting competition, and that they will perform at their best with a wish for peace. We will continue to cooperate with the IPC and relevant local municipalities and will make every effort to ensure everything proceeds smoothly and safely for the Refugee Team.”
The RPT also honours the legacy of Sir Ludwig Guttmann. He was a refugee who found a new home to welcome him and repaid that kindness by helping create one of the world’s great movements, the Paralympic Movement. The RPT builds on previous refugee initiatives created by the IPC. At the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games a two-person team of refugee and asylum-seeking athletes formed the Independent Paralympic Athletes Team.
*Parfait’s participation in the Games is subject to him being classified by 1 August 2021.
#CanadaHockey; #WalterGretzkyDead; #ParkinsonsDisease
Toronto/Canadian-Media: Canada's most beloved hockey dad, Walter Gretzky died Thursday at the age of 82 after a nine-year battle with Parkinson's disease, tweeted his son Wayne Gretzky on behalf of the family late Thursday.
Walter Gretzky. Image credit: Twitter handle of TSN Hockey
“He bravely battled Parkinson’s and other health issues these last few years but he never let it get him down ... He was truly the Great One and the proudest Canadian we know. We love you Dad,” said Wayne.
“You were my first teammate, you built my first rink, bought my first stick, and took me out at first light...You were the first defender I faced, the first goalie I scored on, and my first coach. My first fan, and my biggest. From my first step on the ice until my last step off of it, you were there for me,” said Wayne.
Despite being a celebrity, he always remained down to earth, they said.
“Everything I am is because of him,” Wayne once told the CBC in an interview, Toronto Star News reported.
In the introduction to his autobiography, Gretzky wrote: “I’d say, more than anything, we are ordinary people who have had some extraordinary things happen to us. Maybe that’s why so many others feel comfortable approaching me and telling me their own stories — and I’ve heard them all, including some very sad ones. Whether I’m at home or on the road, I do what I can to help.”
In 1991, three days after his 53rd birthday, he suffered a stroke from which he recovered after a number of years. according to the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame website the stroke also eradicated several years of his long-term memory, including some important moments of his kids’ lives.
The depression suffered by Walter was documented in the 2005 movie, "Waking up Wally: The Walter Gretzky Story.”
He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2012.
“My dad put everything good into helping me play the game of hockey. He even would borrow two dollars from my grandmother so that I could get a hockey stick, to make sure that my stick was brand new,” Wayne Gretzky is quoted as saying.
“He always motivated me and pushed me.”
Gretzky’s wife, Phyllis, passed away in 2005, and leaves behind daughter Kim and sons Wayne, Keith, Glen and Brent.
#TorontoMapleLeafs; #GeorgeArmstrongDead; #IndigenousDescent
Canada/Canadian: The Toronto Maple Leafs mourns today the death of its former captain, George Armstrong at the age of 90.
George Armstrong. Image credit: nhl.com
Armstrong was one of the first players of Indigenous descent to play professional hockey.
Armstrong's death was confirmed by the Maple Leafs on Twitter on Sunday.
Named one of the One Hundred Greatest Maple Leafs of all-time, an Honoured Member of the Hockey Hall of Fame having been inducted in it in 1975, and 41 years later George was voted No. 12 on the franchise's list of 100 greatest Maple Leafs in its centennial season.
As a member of the Maple Leafs family for 75 years, having first signed the organization in 1946, George had been a distinguished player, captain, coach, assistant general manager, scout, community ambassador, and alumnus.
With Skating for his entire 21-year NHL career with the Maple Leafs, with 12 as their captain. George helped Toronto capture four Stanley Cups.
"George is part of the very fabric of the Toronto Maple Leaf organization and will be deeply missed," said Toronto Maple Leafs President & Alternate Governor Brendan Shanahan in a statement. "A proud yet humble man, he loved being a Maple Leaf but never sought the spotlight even though no player played more games for Toronto or captained the team longer. Always one to celebrate his teammates rather than himself, George couldn't even bring himself to deliver his speech the day he was immortalized on Legends Row."
A statement was released by the Leafs on Sunday with the words from Armstrong's unread speech that night.
"Hockey is a great game and I love it. I am part of a fading generation that you will never have again. Every one of us is one of a kind, that will never be repeated. To all of my friends and acquaintances, thank you for your advice and direction, that helped make me who I am today ... a very, very happy person."
Deepest condolences by the Toronto Maple Leafs are extended to the entire Armstrong family including his wife Betty, their children, and grandchildren.
#TokyoOlympics; #IOC; #SurgeOFCovid19; #COC; #TelevisionEvent
Canada/Canadian-Media: Both the head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and local organizers refute reports of cancelation of already postponed Tokyo Olympics, scheduled for Aug. 24.
Tokyo Olympics. Image credit: Facebook Page
Reports of cancellation of Tokyo Olympics began to spread after Tokyo and other district administrative divisions were placed under a state of emergency by the Japanese government to counter a surge of rising COVID-19 cases.
Following initial reports, Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) CEO David Shoemaker said the organization was unaware of any decisions made by the Japanese government and tweeted that the committee "has confidence that the Games can be staged safely and successfully given what has been learned in the sport over the last several months and the emphasis the IOC and Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee have placed on COVID-19 countermeasures,"
Second postponement or cancellation of Tokyo Olympics was also favored by Japan's public opinion with 80 percent in several polls largely due to the failure of Tokyo, a metropolitan area of 35 million, to contain the surge of COVId-19 pandemic cases.
Thomas Bach, IOC president said that proper measures against the virus will focus on testing, quarantines, social distancing, and keeping athletes largely isolated.
In a statement on Friday, the local organizing committee said that with the support of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, the Olympics were going forward.
"All our delivery partners including the national government, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee, the IOC [International Olympic Committee] and the IPC [International Paralympic Committee] are fully focused on hosting the games this summer," the statement said.
"We hope that daily life can return to normal as soon as possible, and we will continue to make every effort to prepare for safe and secure games."
Earlier in the week Senior of IOC. Richard Pound suggested that the Olympics may be held as a mostly television event without fans.
Radical changes may be needed to pull off the Tokyo Olympics, involving 11,000 athletes and tens of thousands of coaches, officials, judges, VIPS, media, and broadcasters, said Bach and added that organizers were in a better position to hold the Olympics now than they were 10 months ago when the games were postponed.
#InternationalBasketballFederation; #CanadaBasketball; #FIBAAmeriCupqualifier; #Fined; #Covid19; #CanadianOlympicCommittee
Canada/Canadian-Media: International Basketball Federation (FIBA) sanctions Canada Basketball President and CEO Glen Grunwald as well as levies a fine up to $227,138 for the sport and threatened to dock Canada's national team a point for having chosen not to attend a FIBA AmeriCup qualifier in November on the advice of medical experts amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
International Basketball Federation. Image credit: Facebook page
In a release on Wednesday, Canada Basketball said that not only would its participation have directly contradicted the mandates of the federal government "but also the directive of our chief medical officer and other medical professionals throughout Canada's sport system, including those with Canada Basketball, Sport Canada, Own The Podium, the Return to Sports Task Force, and the Canadian Olympic Committee."
"I didn't expect this, actually," Grunwald said. "So then for this to come out of the blue when I had been advised earlier that if we were not participating because of medical reasons, it would not be any penalties. So, again, very disappointed and a bit disillusioned with the approach," CBC News reports said.
Canada would only be fined half the amount and would not lose a point if it chooses to attend the February tournament, said FIBA in a statement on Wednesday. If not, those sanctions would remain in place.
FIBA said that failing to qualify for the AmeriCup would end Canada's Paris 2024 Olympic bid, but the games have no bearing on qualification for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.
"It is kind of a threat. We're working really hard and our medical staff has been awesome," Grunwald said. "One of the great things about the Canadian sport community is we're all working together in this very difficult time."
Grunwald said Canada Basketball is hopeful to participate in the third and final stage of AmeriCup qualifying, scheduled to be held Feb. 18-22, with Canada's group, including Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, playing in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
David Shoemaker, CEO, and secretary-general of Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) said the organization is extremely disappointed with this ruling and added the COC continues to stand by Canada Basketball's decision not to travel to the November qualifier in the midst of a pandemic.
#Canada; #Sports; #WorldJuniorHockeyChampionship; #TeamCanada; #Russia; #US
Canada/Canadian-Media: After beating Russia 5-0 in semifinal action on Monday night in Edmonton, Canada, playing for gold at the world junior hockey championship, will look to defend its title on Tuesday.
World junior hockey championship. Image credit: hockeycanada.ca
"The picture of [playing for gold] has been probably our driving force since we got here," Devon Levi said on a video call after Monday's win. "We've put in a lot to this. It's a great feeling that we're here and that we got here. But the job's not done yet."
Canadian coach Andre Tourigny said that he has been preparing the mindset of the players for adversity since coming together for selection camp in mid-November, which helped them prepare for the challenge of fighting for gold.
"Team Canada played a good, solid game. They were solid defensively and very efficient offensively, too," said Russia's coach Igor Larionov.
Team Canada will play the United States tonight at the world junior hockey championship, with the gold medal on the line.
"The way the leaders and the player deal with adversity every time there's adversity, that's what's made the difference to me," Tourigny said.
"It's a really tough tournament, there's still a lot of hockey to be played here. Tomorrow will be a hell of a game."
#Toronto; #Tennis; #BiancaAndreescu; #USOpenChampionship; #Covid19Shutdown
Toronto, Aug 14 (Canadian-Media): The 20-year-old Canadian tennis star Bianca Andreescu announced Aug 13 that she will not defend her United States (US) Open championship, citing a lack of preparation because of injuries and the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, media reports said.
Bianca Andreescu. Image credit: Twitter handle
Andreescu said she hasn't played a match since she suffered a knee injury last October and added that she was dropping out of the tournament, which is due to begin on Aug. 31 in New York
"I have taken this step in order to focus on my match fitness and ensure that I return ready to play at my highest level," Andreescu said in a statement.
"The U.S. Open victory last year has been the high point of my career thus far and I will miss ... being there. However, I realize that the unforeseen challenges, including the COVID pandemic, have compromised my ability to prepare and compete to the degree necessary to play at the highest level."
Andreescu has been impeded by injuries for large part of her career. Even in her breakthrough 2019 campaign, she missed most of the clay- and grass-court seasons because of injury.
Several other high-profile players have withdrawn from the tournament due to the coronavirus, including Spain's Rafael Nadal, the 2019 men's champion.
#Tennis; #USOpen; #Covid19Pandemic
Toronto, Aug 4 (Canadian-Media): Bianca Andreescu, 20, ranked No. 6 in the world rankings, the first Canadian to win a Grand Slam singles championship, will defend her women's title at the U.S. Open, but Rafael Nadal, who was to defend men's champion said Aug 4 he will skip it due to the coronavirus pandemic, media reports said.
Bianca Andreescu. Image credit: Twitter handle
In a series of tweets sent in Spanish and English on Tuesday Nadal explained his decision to skip out.
"The situation is very complicated worldwide, the COVID-19 cases are increasing, it looks like we still don't have control of it," Nadal wrote.
Nadal, 34, of Spain called sitting out the tournament scheduled to begin Aug. 31 in New York "a decision I never wanted to take," but added that he would "rather not travel...We know that the reduced tennis calendar is barbaric this year after four months stopped with no play; I understand and thank (everyone) for the efforts they are putting in to make it happen."
Last September Andreescu defeated Serena Williams in the U.S. Open final to become the first Canadian to win a Grand Slam singles championship.
Since October, she hasn't played because of injury.
Announcement of the competitors, said the organizers, would be done closer to the start of the tournament, which is scheduled for Aug. 31.
#Alberta; #NHL; #EdmontoHubCityForNHL;
Alberta, Jul 24 (Canadian-Media): The following statement was issued by Alberta's Premier Jason Kenney on the National Hockey League (NHL)’s selection of Edmonton as a hub city.
Jason Kenney. Image credit: Twitter handle
“The Government of Alberta is thrilled that the NHL has officially selected Edmonton as one of its hub cities for the restart of the 2019-2020 NHL season, the 2020 NHL Playoffs and the Stanley Cup Finals.
“Edmonton has tremendous advantages that make it a prime choice, and Alberta has been enthusiastically promoting that message over the past few months.
“With a world-class facility in Rogers Place, the unique infrastructure of the Ice District, and strong guidelines from Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, there is no safer place for the NHL to have the playoffs than in Edmonton.
NHL. Image credit: Twitter handle
“This is a huge win for Alberta. The advantages to our local economy for hotels, restaurants and many other industries, including attracting future visitors to our province, will be substantial. In fact, it means upwards of 2,000 jobs here in Edmonton that will be created as a result, and $60 million of economic activity when we need it most. And, more importantly, we will be doing this safely.
“Every year, millions of travellers head to our province to experience its beauty, our diverse culture and our one-of-a-kind destinations – and when the time is right, they will be back.
“This is a unique opportunity to showcase the incredible sights and experiences of Alberta to the world and kick-start our economic recovery – all the while protecting the health of Albertans, players and personnel, and their families.
“Alberta has so much to offer – from our thriving restaurant and hospitality industry in the heart of downtown Edmonton around the Ice District, to the breathtaking views of the mountain vistas of Banff and Jasper. We look forward to showcasing all Alberta has to offer as we get ready to watch the puck drop.
“Hockey has always had a special place in the hearts of Albertans, and we are incredibly thrilled to bring the best game you can name back into the living rooms of homes across Canada.”