How will Covid-19 impact the Olympics?

Athletes will have to perform to empty stadia and award their own medals...
27 July 2021


Empty Olympic Stadium



The Olympics were a casualty of Covid last year; now they are taking place in Tokyo, but this is going to be far from “normal”. As one commentator put it, this must be the most low-key build up to the Olympics we’ve ever seen?


Exercise physiologist and world record holder Dan Gordon chatted with Chris about this year's Olympics:

Dan - Yeah, and I think if you ask most people in the general public, "Are you aware that the Olympics are taking place?" I suspect most people would be unaware. I mean, there's been very little in the media. There's been very little push through the broadcasting organisations about it and it's not surprising. I mean, you look at the way the Olympics are going to operate. It's a very, very different environment. There will be almost no crowds in stadia. The velodromes will be empty. The pools will be empty. And I think they're allowing, for some of the sports, very small numbers of spectators in. And then of course, we've got the fact that the metal ceremonies will not be standard medal ceremonies. The participants are in fact going to award themselves the metals and they're not allowed to kiss the medals. Even with the opening ceremony, which is always a massive affair, it's kind of which country can outdo which country, is going to be a very low key affair. And so I think it's going to be a very, very low key game and they have started to already be, not outbreaks, but there are cases of COVID within the Olympic Village arising already.

Chris - I suppose one incentive to win a medal is that those precious metals are naturally anti-microbial aren't they? So you could use your medal for that if it came to it. Are they going to have a Paralympics this year?

Dan - That's a really good question. I mean, at the moment, yes, it's scheduled to follow within a couple of weeks of the Games, but concerns also been raised because a lot of the Paralympians are in what we've considered more of the at risk population groups.

Chris - Well that was my point, that we're going to have groups of people who are potentially a bit more clinically vulnerable. They're also probably going to have more of an entourage of supporting people who they need to help them do their day to day things aren't they? So it's, it's an even bigger issue for them.

Dan - It's a bigger issue. It's a much bigger risk and I think it will be a wait and see. If the Olympics goes off without a relative hitch, I think you see the Paralympics happening.

Richard - Yeah, I just wondered about, you talked about the lack of atmosphere, the lack of crowds, what the psychological impact of that is on the athletes.

Dan - I suppose if I give you the reverse answer, the effect of London, when we hosted the games in London, you saw the effect of a home crowd and 85,000 people in the stadium and athletes like Mo Farah saying that really had even had not had the crowd when he won his second gold medal, he probably wouldn't have medalled at all. There is something about it, isn't it that we thrive and people thrive on that kind of environment. And that's where we get these superstar performances happening. I just think it's going to be a very, very strange atmosphere. The officials aren't allowed to cheer. They're not allowed to do the haka in the rugby sevens anymore.



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