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

Ponoka Mayor Rick Bonnett is trying to enlist support from other municipalities for more equitable provincial funding for small and rural municipalities.
Photo from Town of Ponoka
Ponoka arena closing, Santa Claus Parade officially cancelled

Town of Ponoka announces new COVID-19 restrictions

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said growing COVID-19 case numbers continue to be a concern in the province. (Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta announces 1,077 new COVID-19 cases Thursday

There are currently 14,052 active cases in the province

Bids for Kids poster
Wolf Creek Youth Foundation online auction gets ‘overwhelming’ response

Santa’s Bids for Kids auction to benefit youth programs in Ponoka and Rimbey

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said the 500 deaths from COVID-19 in the province are a tragic milestone. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta hits ‘tragic milestone’ with more COVID-19 deaths

Province up to 500 COVID-19 deaths, adds 1,265 cases

File Photo
Sylvan Lake Town Council asks for a mask bylaw to be brought forward for consideration

The bylaw would require face coverings in all indoor Town-owned and operated facilities

The corporate headquarters of Pfizer Canada are seen in Montreal, Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. The chief medical adviser at Health Canada says Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine could be approved in Canada next month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Health Canada expects first COVID-19 vaccine to be approved next month

Canada has a purchase deal to buy at least 20 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine,

People wear face masks as they pose next to a Christmas display in Montreal, Sunday, November 22, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
How to tell family their Christmas gathering is too risky and you’re not going

Dr. Hurst says it’s best to frame the conversation from a place of care, stressing safety precautions.

A sign instructs people to wear masks in downtown Calgary on Friday, Oct. 30, 2020. Pub and restaurant owners are trying to figure out how to comply with a stricter COVID-19 measure in Alberta that dictates only six people from the same household can sit at one table. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Brewpub owner pleased Alberta not closing sit-down dining as COVID-19 cases soar

Alberta’s caseload of COVID-19 infections has been growing for weeks

This undated photo issued by the University of Oxford shows of vial of coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, in Oxford, England. (University of Oxford/John Cairns via AP)
Canada can make vaccines, just not the ones leading the COVID-19 race

Canada has spent more than $1 billion to pre-order seven different developing COVID-19 vaccines

(File photo)
Alberta woman charged after allegedly hitting boy with watermelon at B.C. campsite

Police say a disagreement among friends at an Adams Lake campsite turned ugly

A pedestrian wears masks while out walking in front of the Alberta Legislature as the COVID-19 numbers spike in Edmonton on Tuesday November 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Doctor says Alberta restrictions not enough to reduceCOVID-19 strain on hospitals

Mithani notes people are still allowed to gather indoors at large places of worship and in bars,

Most Read