Within the wake of the early days of the pandemic final March and the incessant messaging by the Worldwide Olympic Committee saying the Tokyo Olympics would go on as scheduled that July, six-time Canadian Olympian and doctor-in-training Hayley Wickenheiser sounded the alarm.
On March 17, 2020, she took to social media, sending out a tweet saying it was insensitive and irresponsible for the Video games to go ahead. 5 days later, Canada’s Nationwide Olympic Committee took the daring step of saying it could not ship athletes to Tokyo that summer time. And on March 24, per week after Wickenheiser ignited a dialog, the Olympics and Paralympics have been postponed.
Now, within the midst of a 3rd wave with aggressive coronavirus variants ravaging communities globally and lots of locations in Canada locked down, Wickenheiser is as soon as once more questioning whether or not it’s secure to stage the Video games.
“I’ve to ask the questions. And I feel they’re truthful questions,” Wickenheiser advised CBC Sports activities. “Previous to the pandemic I mentioned there isn’t any approach the Olympics can go forward as a result of historical past advised us there was no approach they might. And now I am saying I do not know, I’m wondering if they will once more.”
She’s uniquely positioned to talk to the difficulty as a four-time gold medallist and a member of the IOC’s Athletes Fee. She can be per week away from graduating with a medical diploma.
Wickenheiser understands the entire coaching, preparation and cash that is been poured into these Video games, however mentioned the underside line ought to be security and public well being.
“This resolution must be made by medical and well being consultants, not by company and massive enterprise,” she mentioned. “A really clear and clear rationalization must be given if the Video games are going to go forward.”
‘Seen such struggling’
Wickenheiser has been operating off her toes contained in the Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary, attempting to maintain up with the frenzy of individuals being admitted with COVID-19. The very last thing on her thoughts when tending to sufferers and seeing the fixed nervousness, stress and worry in individuals’s eyes are the Olympics and Paralympics.
“It’s totally onerous after what I’ve witnessed this previous 12 months after which take into consideration the Video games. I’ve seen such struggling,” Wickenheiser mentioned.
Greater than 15,000 Olympic and Paralympic athletes are anticipated to flood Japan in July, August and September, with tens of 1000’s extra media, sponsors and different stakeholders additionally attending. The vaccination fee in Japan is lower than 2 per cent of the inhabitants and surveys point out that the majority Japanese residents don’t need the Video games.
‘That is somebody’s nation we will’
“I feel we perhaps have one other month earlier than they need to decide,” she mentioned. “If issues change drastically by way of vaccinations within the nation of Japan. Circumstances there are spiking … That is somebody’s nation we’re going into. These are actual individuals dwelling in disaster. We have now to be delicate to the wants of a nation.”
All this whereas tons of of Canadian athletes proceed to attempt to discover methods to coach and compete with restrictions and restricted journey, not even positive if they will get a correct alternative to qualify.
In a January interview with CBC Sports activities, Canadian runner Gabriela DeBues-Stafford mentioned she will’t see the Video games going ahead with out each competitor being vaccinated.
“I do not suppose it is a life like situation to have an Olympics with no vaccine,” she mentioned.
WATCH | Gabriela DeBues-Stafford on Olympics and vaccine:
There may be rising stress amongst Canadian athletes, many who’re reluctant to talk publicly about their issues across the Video games with the ability to be staged in a secure atmosphere.
Wickenheiser understands their fears, in addition to the dilemma of getting labored so onerous to qualify and having to make an virtually unattainable resolution to compete in an Olympics within the midst of a pandemic.
“My coronary heart breaks for these athletes which have skilled for this one second to have it perhaps taken away from them,” she mentioned. “There isn’t any winner on this, whether or not it is cancelled or goes forward. It is only a troublesome scenario throughout.”
That is why she mentioned it should not be the athletes or IOC making the choice to maneuver ahead or not, as a result of she is aware of what she would do if she was nonetheless competing.
IOC ‘should not be making that decision’
“I’d go at any value. You virtually want another person exterior with much less invested than you to say it’s or is not value it,” she mentioned.
“It should not be the IOC making that decision. That ought to be the skilled docs and physicians who’ve handled pandemics and other people with no pores and skin the sport and nothing to achieve or lose from this.”
Canadian Olympic Committee CEO David Shoemaker mentioned his group is conscious of the continuing challenges of the pandemic, however they continue to be assured the Video games shall be staged safely and efficiently.
“We consider these Video games are necessary each for the athletes who will fulfill their goals and the followers at residence who shall be impressed once they want it most,” Shoemaker wrote in an electronic mail to CBC Sports activities. “The IOC and Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee have developed well being and security protocols to a level that we have by no means seen at a Video games.”
Athletes will not be required to quarantine for 14 days after arriving in Japan to compete and vaccines are additionally not obligatory. Wickenheiser has critical issues about that.
“There shall be outbreaks. It is unattainable to keep away from,” she mentioned, mirroring feedback made to CBC this week by Canada’s Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious illness specialist. “Can we get everybody vaccinated on time? Can we shield the athletes? My job on the IOC Athletes’ Fee is to advocate for the well being and security of the athletes. I do not know if we are able to do a bubble that may shield the athletes.”
Shoemaker mentioned Canadian athletes won’t be leaping the queue to get the vaccine and that frontline employees and important employees are the precedence.
“With the rising numbers of vaccines out there to Canadians, we’re hopeful that athletes could have entry to them previous to Tokyo, which would supply a further layer of safety to the numerous countermeasures which have been put in place,” Shoemaker mentioned, including his group is in fixed communication with medical consultants for steerage on correct protocols.
Because the clock ticks right down to July 23 to start the Tokyo Olympics, Wickenheiser is staying centered on issues at residence. She’s now began a motion known as “That is your Shot,” urging Canadians to get vaccinated.
WATCH | Impact of the pandemic on the Olympics:
The marketing campaign, fuelled by sporting and leisure stars from throughout Canada, will start on April 28.
“Folks do not know what to consider. They’re bored with listening to politicians,” she mentioned. “We have had poor management in components of this nation politically. The communication has been dangerous and other people do not know what to consider. We have now to regulate what we are able to and that is getting vaccinated.”
Fairly merely, Wickenheiser mentioned take heed to the docs and consultants relatively than the IOC, sponsors and stakeholders.
“That is what it is all about. Cash and broadcast rights and guarantees made. I query if the well being and the well-being of the athletes attending has been on the true forefront. I’ve to ask that query as a result of it wasn’t when the Video games have been first postponed,” Wickenheiser mentioned.