Yes, the Summer Olympics are happening. What you need to know

Arjun Ram
Story by Arjun Ram and CBC Kids News • Published 2021-04-14 11:47

Plenty of precautions but some people still opposed because of the pandemic


If you’re a fan of the Olympics, you’ll notice things will be a bit different at the Summer Games in Tokyo this year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every aspect of our lives and the biggest event in sports is no different.

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics are just 100 days away and athletes are getting ready.

The Olympic rings, which were temporarily taken down in August for maintenance amid the COVID-19 pandemic, are transported for reinstallation at the waterfront area at Odaiba Marine Park in Tokyo in December 2020. (Image credit: Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)

The Games are taking place July 23 to Aug. 8 and you’re not reading it wrong — they’re still being called the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

The Paralympics begin on Aug. 24.

Specific measures are being put in place to ensure the games proceed smoothly. Here are some of them.

1. No foreign fans

The stadiums will be more empty and less rowdy than we’re used to.

Foreign visitors, including fans, are banned from the Games.

Only people with essential operational roles such as media members, trainers and of course the athletes themselves, will be permitted to enter stadiums and other Olympic sites.

Allowing international fans increases the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Thomas Bach, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President visits the National Stadium, the main venue for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, in Tokyo, Japan, in November, 2020. Many seats will be empty during the Games. (Image credit: Behrouz Mehri/Reuters)

And even the IOC’s president, Thomas Bach, acknowledged that for everyone watching at home, some of the excitement will be missing.

“We share the disappointment of all enthusiastic Olympic fans from around the world,” Bach said in a statement on March 20. “For this I am truly sorry.”

2. Precautions for athletes

It won’t just be different at the actual events.

Athletes will have to abide by specific rules when they aren’t competing.

The IOC released a 33-page playbook detailing safety measures for athletes to follow.

They include: regular COVID-19 testing, social distancing and strict mask mandates.

Marnie McBean, a three-time Olympic gold medalist in rowing, speaks after being named the Olympic chef de mission for the Summer Games in Tokyo in 2019. (Image credit: Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Marnie McBean, former Canadian Olympian and Chef de Mission for Team Canada, said that shouldn’t be a problem.

“Athletes, they get rules,” she told CBC Kids News. “They get instructions. They understand there’s a protocol to every competition.”

3. Looking forward despite opposition over COVID-19 spread

According to a survey, 80 percent of the Japanese population are opposed to the Games being held this year because of all the people entering the country and potentially spreading COVID-19.

Despite the controversy, Japan’s Olympic Minister has said the Games would be held in 2021 “at any cost.”

Protesters demanding cancelling of 2020 Games hold a rally in front of the National Stadium in November 2020. (Image credit: Kim Kyung-Hoon: Reuters)

The torch relay has already begun and the athletes are getting ready. 

McBean said the IOC and the Tokyo organizing committee “are doing everything they can to alleviate fears.”

“You know, you can't plan for everything, so everybody's doing their best to contain [COVID - 19] and I think it's a very solid plan,” she said.

Japan's women's national soccer team leads the torch relay in northeastern Japan on March 25. The torch relay is headed toward the opening ceremony in Tokyo on July 23. (Image credit: Kim Kyung-Hoon/AP)

4. Mental health is a priority for Team Canada 

For so many athletes, their careers were suddenly put on hold a year ago, and that has had a major impact on their mental health.

Some athletes have spoken about feeling depression or anxiety due to the abrupt cancellation of the Games last year. 

“Our swimmers swim every day and they've swum every day since they were like, five,” McBean said. “And so to say you can't be in a pool because of, you know, venues closed down for one hundred days, that was really hard for them.”

A diver soars through the air

Diver Nathan Zsombor-Murray, 16, said he was hopeful he would qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and was heartbroken when they were postponed. (Image credit: Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

But McBean is confident the Olympics can help athletes refocus when they return to their sport.

“One of the upsides to this whole thing is that everybody's remembered how much they love and they appreciate their opportunity to do their sport and be the best in the world at it.”

Team Canada is also working hard to help athletes overcome mental health challenges.

“We created webinars and almost like chat rooms for the athletes to come together and not just within their sport, but like multisport chat rooms,” McBean said.

“We have been doing everything we can to create a safe, high-performance environment.”

5. Vaccines are making a difference

Millions of people around the world have received the COVID-19 vaccine already this year, and sporting events are starting to happen more often.

China and the IOC have struck a deal to vaccinate Olympic athletes.

But not all countries agree that their athletes should receive that vaccine.

An athlete clutches her medal

Canadian Olympic wrestler Erica Wiebe said front-line workers and elderly should be first to get the vaccine, not athletes. (Image credit: Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

In Canada, for example, athletes will get vaccines approved in this country and will only receive them based on their province’s rollout plan.

“We're encouraging everyone to get a shot when it's your turn to get that shot,” McBean said. “And Canadian athletes have been very clear in that they don't see themselves in the population that needs to jump the line.”

The IOC has encouraged countries to vaccinate their athletes before the Olympics start.

What have Canadian athletes been doing this past year?

Check out these profiles about some of Canada’s Olympic hopefuls:

With files from: The Associated Press, CBC

TOP IMAGE CREDIT: Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters, Graphic design by Philip Street/CBC


About the Contributor

Arjun Ram
Arjun Ram
CBC Kids News Contributor
Arjun Ram is a Grade 11 French immersion student from Hamilton, Ont., with many diverse interests such as sports, music and math. Arjun has developed an interest in reporting on social and political issues as well as important developments in the area of professional sports. He hopes to one day work as a news anchor for CBC.

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