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

Flashback: Teddy bears, dinosaurs, cougars, oh my!

Remember these stories from Cowichan Lake?

Drivesmart column: Clear your frosty windows BEFORE driving

85 per cent of the information we require to drive safely comes to us through our eyes.

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 20 to 26

Rabbit Day, Hobbit Day and One-Hit Wonder Day are all coming up this week

Hundreds march against location of safe injection site

A Voice for Our Children opposes centre being near schools, recreation sites

QUIZ: A celebration of apples

September is the start of the apple harvest

Young B.C. cancer survivor rides 105-km with Terry Fox’s brother

Jacob Bredenhof and Darrell Fox’s cycling trek raises almost $90,000 for cancer research

B.C. migrant, undocumented workers rally for permanent residency program

Rally is part of the Amnesty for Undocumented Workers Campaign led by the Migrant Workers Centre

Preparations underway for pandemic election in Saskatchewan and maybe B.C.

Administrators in B.C. and around the country are also looking to expand voting by mail during the pandemic

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Nearly 20 per cent of COVID-19 infections among health-care workers by late July

WHO acknowledged the possibility that COVID-19 might be spread in the air under certain conditions

Ferry riders say lower fares are what’s most needed to improve service

Provincial government announces findings of public engagement process

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Comox Valley protesters send message over old-growth logging

Event in downtown Courtenay was part of wider event on Friday

Most Read