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Tokyo 2020 Olympics: final countdown plus men’s football kicks off – live!

The Guardian - Thu Jul 22 09:44


I am off to find a big fan to cool me down. Daniel Harris will replace me.


Mexico have beaten a pretty underwhelming France 4-1.

Mexico’s Alexis Vega (centre), celebrates his goal.
Mexico’s Alexis Vega (centre), celebrates his goal. Photograph: Shuji Kajiyama/AP


Despite no spectators being allowed at the Olympics, the Australian softball team have snuck one in.

Reuters report: Skippy, an inflatable kangaroo about one metre tall, has travelled with the national team since 2009 and Australian left fielder Jade Wall explained his importance after she drove in the lone run in Australia’s 1-0 win over Italy on Thursday.

“He loves coming to train, loves coming to the games, everywhere we go,” Wall told a news conference. “We want to bring entertainment on the field, and he brings the entertainment off the field.”
Australia is home to millions of kangaroos.
“It can be quite a serious game and have a look at Skip and you can put on a smile and get back out there,” Wall said.
Australia have been in Japan since June 1, most of the time near bustling Tokyo.

Wall said Skippy preferred being near the mountains and woods of Fukushima, where the first two days of softball competition were held, even though he has not been able to enjoy the Fukushima specialty peaches given out by the bowlful to the Olympic teams.


In the first team games of the day, Ivory Coast and Saudi Arabia drew 1-1, while Egypt v Spain ended goalless.

Neither Egypt nor Spain could muster a goal.
Neither Egypt nor Spain could muster a goal. Photograph: Masashi Hara/Getty Images


Mallory Franklin says falling from her canoe and into the Tokyo waters is like taking a warm bath, a sign of the high temperatures in Japan.

The mercury could surpass 30C in the first week of the Games, with humidity making matters worse for athletes. Franklin, who will compete in the women’s C1, practised at the Kasai Canoe Slalom Centre on Thursday. She thinks those in the water could be as badly impacted by the weather as those on dry land.

“The hardest thing is in the afternoon when the water has warmed up and falling in is like being in a bathtub,” she said. “You would think it would be nice and refreshing but it is actually worse. It is better to be the right way up.”


As the echo at the football reminds us, these Games are being played behind closed doors.


Do you not need to wait until after the Olympics to get the tattoo?

A Canadian gymnast shows off their tattoos.
A Canadian gymnast shows off their tattoos. Photograph: Mike Blake/Reuters



A little from Reuters on an unvaccinated American swimmer toeing the line in Tokyo:

A US Olympic swimming gold medal prospect who declined a coronavirus vaccine has been strictly complying with health protocols while in Japan, as part of a team that is taking the measures seriously, a senior official said on Thursday.

Michael Andrew has been widely criticised on social media in recent weeks after he opted out of the vaccine over concern about how he might react to it so close to the Tokyo Olympics, which start on Friday.

Andrew has called it an educated decision and insisted he was not anti-vax. Dave Durden, head coach for the US men’s team, said he was happy with Andrew’s preparations and the way he and teammates had conducted themselves.

“I feel very comfortable about what he’s doing, where he’s at, how he’s operating. You know even, even in a situation like today, he was over at the pool with very minimal people,” Durden told reporters.

“We’re looking at a couple things now as coaches, trying to swim fast, that’s our utmost priority for him, continuing to have him feel safe too and have the athletes around and feel safe, feel good about what we’re doing with our precautions.

“It is a team thing, that we’re really supporting each other, and Michael is no different in that regard.”



Mexico have been the better ream against France and rightly have a two-goal lead in their Olympics opener. The French defence has been ropey at best.

Alexis Vega of Mexico celebrates scoring their first goal.
Alexis Vega of Mexico celebrates scoring their first goal. Photograph: Edgar Su/Reuters



This Olympics is going to be very different ...


I am backtracking now I’ve heard the co-commentator again. I do not think that is Leroy Rosenior. I am so confused. I blame the heat.


Not everyone will be excited about skateboarding being part of the Olympics but it does allow cracking photos likes this.

The shadow of a skateboarder during practise.
The shadow of a skateboarder during practise. Photograph: Jeff Pachoud/AFP/Getty Images


I think Jonathan Dugdale might very well be right and this is the world feed commentary. “Dunno about iPlayer but Eurosport co-commentator seems to be Leroy Rosenior,” says Johnathan. That sounds about right to me.


There are currently four football matches taking place in the Olympics. Not one has seen a goal yet. The Mexico v France game has been good fun, though, to be fair.


The Tokyo 2020 vetting process has been poor.


Following a conversation with a colleague in Australia, I am not looking at the silliest nicknames for Australian sports teams. The Olympics team is known as the Olyroos, which is pretty bad. The bowls team is named the Jackaroos, while the Fed Cup tennis squad is called the Cockatoos.


U-turn on banning images of athletes taking knee on social media

The IOC and Toyko 2020 organisers are doing their best impression of the UK government with a U-turn within 24 hours. As with all these things, the original decision was utterly stupid.



Mexico v France is incredibly physical and aggressive. Due to the fact the stadium is empty, you can really hear every tackle and foul, including the reaction. The referee is in for a tricky 90 minutes.


The Team GB flag bearers have been announced.


I have no idea who the co-commentator is on Mexico v France, currently being shown on BBC iPlayer. If someone could tell me, that would be great.


No one cheers you up more than your own children. Andy Murray needed a chat with his daughter following his defeat to Denis Shapovalov at Wimbledon to keep his chin up. The father of four children under the age of five is at the Olympics hoping to win another medal.

“I was very disappointed after Wimbledon. With each major tournament that passes, or again here, when I’m getting asked questions, a lot of it is always about my future. And also, when I haven’t performed as well as I’d like to, you question things, doubt yourself a little bit.

“When I got home the day after my match, my daughter said to me, ‘Daddy you’re home because you lost another tennis match’. I said to her, ‘Yes I did but what do you do when you lose at something?’

“And she said, ‘You try and try again’. And I was like, ‘Yes, that’s what I want to do’. I want to keep playing because I enjoy it. I still think I can play at a high level.

“There’s been difficult moments obviously in the last few months and the last year with the injuries and stuff but right now this is the healthiest I’ve been for the longest period in the last year.

“I’ve got to practise way more than I had been in the build-up to the grass and Wimbledon and everything so I’m getting better. Hopefully it stays that way through to the end of the year.”



Ben Ryan on the legendary Zatopek.


Although the opening ceremony is tomorrow, there is already a few things going on in Japan. In addition to the football, the softball is well under way.

Reuters report:

Hosts Japan earned an extra-innings victory against Mexico on their ace’s 39th birthday and the second day of softball at the Tokyo Games, joining United States at 2-0 in the standings. Australia later on Thursday defeated Italy, who dropped to 0-2 and have yet to score a run in the tournament.

Mexico twice tied Japan, including in the seventh inning when a dropped ball by Japan’s center fielder let in a run and kept their ace Yukiko Ueno from a complete game and second-straight winning start.
Japan reliever Miu Goto escaped loaded bases in the top of the eighth, leaving her team mate Mana Atsumi to drive in Eri Yamada, who started at second base under extra-innings rules, for a 3-2 walkoff win.
Goto said wanting to deliver Ueno a birthday win helped in shutting down Mexico, and slugger Yamato Fujita described a homer she hit as a present for Ueno.


There is a shedload of stuff for you to read today, as the Olympics are very nearly upon.

Russia are here (sort of)

Japan’s great hopes.



There are eight games of football happening today in Japan as the men’s competition gets going. There are a decent amount of players who appeared at the Euros in Spain’s squad, which shows it is being taken very seriously by some, even those many nations have ignored it down the years.

Elsewhere eyes will be on Covid, with the number of athletes testing positive increasing by the day, causing plenty of concern for organisers who are ploughing on regardless. The opening ceremony takes place on Friday, so the hosts will be hoping for no more controversy or high-profile dropouts.

Let’s see what becomes of the day.