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

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

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
City of Wetaskiwin COVID-19 deaths increase to five

New COVID-19 death in the City of Wetaskiwin despite decrease in active cases.

City of Red Deer has nearly doubled its active COVID-19 case count since Feb. 10 and has 75.6 per cent of the Central zone’s active cases. (File photo)
Another new high: Red Deer hits 574 active COVID-19 cases

Province reports 13 new COVID-19 deaths, 430 new cases

Maskwacis RCMP regular members, Community Tripartite Agreement (CTA) members and support staff proudly wore pink in support of Pink Shirt Day on Feb. 24, 2021. Supplied/ Maskwacis RCMP.
Maskwacis RCMP embraces Pink Shirt Day

Maskwacis RCMP engage in virtual presentations with schools on anti-bullying for Pink Shirt Day.

Minister Rick Wilson poses with Katie at the Boys and Girls Club of Wetaskiwin, both wearing her Pink Shirt Day design. Facebook/ Boys and Girls Club of Wetaskiwin.
Be kind and wear pink for Pink Shirt Day

Katie with the Boys and Girls Club of Wetaskiwin created this year’s Pink Shirt Day design.

Black Press File Photo
Valentine’s Day shooting in Maskwacis leaves one male in hospital, one male in custody

19-year-old Francis Edward Nepoose from Maskwacis has been charged with attempted murder.

Bookings for COVID-19 vaccines for people age 75 or older start Wednesday. (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Updated: Delays for seniors booking for vaccine appointments

By 9:20 a.m. Wednesday, 4,500 seniors had booked their appointments

Students and staff at Gateway Christian School wore pink Wednesday in support of Pink Shirt Day, a worldwide anti-bullying initiative that was started in 2007. (Photo courtesy of Red Deer Public Schools)
Students, central Alberta community celebrate Pink Shirt Day

Mayor of Sylvan Lake Sean McIntyre supports anti-bullying cause

Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Anne Kirker is expected to sentence Satnam Singh Sandhu on Friday. Red Deer Advocate file photo
Updated: Sylvan Lake man pleads guilty to manslaughter for strangling wife in 2019

Kulvinder Sandhu was strangled and died in hospital several days later

Sentencing delayed in the stabbing death of Samantha Sharpe, of Sunchild First Nation. (Red Deer Advocate file photo)
Central Alberta man not criminally responsible for killing his father in 2020: judge

Psychiatrist testified Nicholas Johnson was psychotic when he killed his father

The cover of “Hometown Asylum: A History and Memoir of Institutional Care.” (Submitted)
Ponoka-born author writes history of old mental hospital

“Hometown Asylum: A History and Memoir of Institutional Care” covers 1911 to 1971

Todd Hirsch. (Image: screenshot)
ATB vice president gives financial forecast to Ponoka chamber

Predictions for reopening of the economy and recovery outlined

Meteor spotted over Edmonton, Alta., on Feb. 22, 2021 by several, who took to social media to share their surveillance camera captures. (@KixxAxe/Twitter)
VIDEO: Fireball meteor streaks across sky, spotted by early-morning risers in Alberta, B.C.

Videos of the quick streak of light flashing across the sky before 6:30 a.m. MST

(Canada Post-Special To The News)
Ontario Canada Post worksite hit by major virus outbreak excluded from inspections

Just this year more than 300 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 and one person has died

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at NIH. (Pool/Getty Images/TNS)
Possibility of wearing masks into 2022 to defeat COVID-19: Dr. Fauci

Despite getting vaccinated, masks will be essential

Most Read