Thursday morning, there were 24 hours left, and the glistening sea forest waterway sparkled with contained excitement. At nine in the morning, the course was dotted with crews making long, tapered rides, paddling loop after loop with a few gusts to test their top speeds. A few starts. A few finish sprints. Lots of nice oars to look at. It’s a little different when you don’t know the shape of many crews: each unit coming down the track looks like a dark horse. Even for those who have raced in Europe before, the unknown is how they will fare against the absentees – especially Australia, New Zealand, China, the United States and Canada – the uncertainty works. in both ways. The heat, spread over the first three days, will tell us a lot.
Later in the morning, the spare races aided officials and commentators by testing the time trial format before setting off again an hour later, side by side. The time trials were suitably boring, but the side-to-side competitions, although with the exception of a women’s singles race that didn’t really bite our nails, lit up the lake with determined intent and reported wins for GBR), Netherlands1 (W1xa), Italy (W1xb), Romania (M1xa) and Germany (M1xb). As they finished after noon, the wind shifted to a stronger crosswind, slightly across the stands, although the water conditions didn’t look too bad. The forecast calls for a slightly stronger wind on Friday, but the worst weather conditions are forecast for the final days, although high winds and thunderstorms are more likely to occur in the afternoon after the end of the race. FISA has its usual premier wind forecasting service and hosted the Asian Qualifying Regatta here in May. She is therefore convinced that she understands the likely trends, aided by the weather recording buoys installed in 2019 during the opening of the Sea Forest course.
FISA Executive Director Matt Smith, who hosted his last Olympic Games for world rowing before his retirement, told Line360 that although flights to Haneda Airport over the course are not disrupted for rowing, the situation is under control. “The problem with aircraft noise has been known since we started working on this site with Tokyo in 2007. It is not a big problem for us and only causes a 5-7 second variation in the sequence. start because the planes can be seen well. in advance of the given starting time and the starter can adjust. However, it may be different for the equestrian cross country competition, which takes place on Sundays between rowing and canoeing in the man-made Sea Forest created behind the rowing front. It appears that special flight arrangements were made for the three-hour cross-country event, in order to avoid scaring the horses.
The Lithuanian M4x had gone out paddling with the others, having borrowed a boat from a boatbuilder, and seemed comfortable doing a flurry. It appears they were kept abreast of the Russian anti-doping disqualification through an internal Russian source, so they may not have been very surprised to be invited to the Olympics last Sunday. Line360 Asked Smith if he thinks doping problems are on the rise in the sport, after the two Russians and a handful of rowers banned by their own federations this year, including 2018 Lithuanian world champion Ieva Adomaviciute. “I know the number of tests being done in all sports has increased and as a result there is a higher detection percentage,” Smith said. “I am concerned about the high financial rewards offered in all sports, regardless of sport, by Sports Ministries or NOCs for Olympic medals. For many countries, these financial rewards are extreme compared to the cost of living and the quality of life which, of course, could encourage taking risks in order to perform. But he said he believed doping in rowing was under control due to the very low number of positives, even though testing had increased.
Thursday also announced that two other rowers will carry flags during the opening ceremony: the British engine room M8 + Moe Sbihi (with sailor Hannah Mills) and the Ivorian Kouadio Franck N’Dri, their M1x. Normally rowing begins the morning after the Opening Ceremony, which means team members are rarely represented. But even though joining a long procession during the COVID era is not a tempting prospect, the Friday morning race (and Sbihi is only in action on Sunday) allows more rowers than normal to participate if they wish. What’s the bet that the British men’s eight will slip into the group behind Sbihi?
Back there, it’s unclear if those watching the sleeves on TV will hear anything from the stands: cheering is strictly forbidden, even “speaking loudly” is discouraged and I imagine the vuvezelas would be completely out of touch. custom, thank goodness. The stands will not be completely empty, since other rowers – far enough away of course – are allowed to stay and watch their teammates until they open their mouths, but there will no doubt be air horns, soccer rattles or lightning coming out. (How soon can you get an Amazon Prime delivery to the Olympic Village?) And the curved roof over the media offices rather echoes the enthusiastic applause, though the incessant background muzak is completely in the way. There has been talk of the Olympic broadcasting service adding crowd noise to its footage, but some rights holders such as the BBC and NBC will be making their own comments, which could erase the false sounds from the audience.
The word is that in the Olympic Village, people behave quite cautiously, which may explain why cases do not seem to be increasing, especially among athletes. Yes, there are a few new ones every day – especially in the Czech squad, which now has up to five COVID positives at the Games and has pushed the Czech Olympic Committee to launch an investigation. But lately, more and more new cases concern athletes still in their country of origin, justifying the obligation for the competitors not to go to Tokyo more than five days before their competition. Instead of COVID, Thursday’s news was about the latest scandal to hit the opening ceremony – its manager being fired 30 hours before the start after making a nasty anti-Semitic joke – and about rowing supremo John Coates , from the Australian Olympic Committee, denigrating a colleague during a press conference broadcast live on their successful bid for the Brisbane 2032 Games.
There will be more. In an Olympic week, almost everything revolves around the Olympics. Panasonic, Toyota and a Japanese real estate company who have all paid millions for Olympic sponsorship rights have confirmed that they will not be running any explicitly Olympic-themed ads in the next fortnight, although Bank Nomura is still showcasing them. Olympic rings by the stadium in its advertisements. And now there has been a data breach so some Games ticket holders, many of whom are likely no longer able to attend, have their data stolen and have fled online.
If we’re not careful, sport could come a long way behind these stories. So here is the scintillating and absorbent oar. Good luck to everyone.