Marnie McBean speaks after being named the Olympic chef de mission for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games during the Canada Day noon show on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, July 1, 2019. The International Olympic Committee's athletes "Playbook" might have been short on specifics more than five months out from the opening ceremonies, but a major takeaway was that the Tokyo Games amid a global pandemic will be unlike any before. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

McBean: Canadian athletes understand Tokyo will be unlike any other Olympics

From social distancing to careful monitoring to zero tolerance for a positive test.

The International Olympic Committee’s athletes “Playbook” might have been short on specifics more than five months out from the opening ceremonies, but a major takeaway was that the Tokyo Games amid a global pandemic will be unlike any before.

“It’s a really good time to park (expectations),” said Marnie McBean, the chef de mission of Canada’s Olympic team for Tokyo. “Like I wrote in a message to athletes: This isn’t going to be like any other Games you’ve been to. And in fact, I don’t think you should compare it to any Games, it’s going to be an outlier. And, if you keep comparing it to the days of old, it’s going to be shocking.”

There were no surprises in the Playbook, meant to detail how organizers plan to safely host more than 15,000 athletes, plus the IOC hopes reassure the more than 80 per cent of Japanese residents who said in recent polls the Games should be postponed or cancelled.

The Playbook states that athletes aren’t required to be vaccinated to compete, although the IOC has asked national Olympic committees to meet with their respective federal governments on procuring athlete vaccinations.

Canada plans to send a team whether or not athletes have been vaccinated.

“Vaccines would be lovely, right? That would be really nice,” said McBean, a triple Olympic gold medallist in rowing. “But we knew we couldn’t count on them.”

The Playbook states that a safe Games can’t be guaranteed.

“Despite all care taken, we draw to your attention that risks and impacts may not be fully eliminated and that you agree to attend the Olympic and Paralympic Games at your own risk,” it said.

The warning wasn’t surprising said race walker Evan Dunfee, and athletes understand the risks.

“But I can’t imagine many athletes will decide to stay home. For me personally, it is a personal risk I am absolutely willing to take,” said the world bronze medallist.

Dunfee stressed what’s more important is following rules around isolating once he returns home, for the safety of others.

The IOC is in a tough spot, he added, facing opposition from some who believe the Games shouldn’t happen.

“And I think some of the athletes, myself included, are stuck in this position of thinking maybe the Games shouldn’t be happening but at the same time not wanting to give up this opportunity that we’ve worked our entire lives for,” Dunfee said. “This is the moment I’ve been dreaming of since I was 10 years old and I just can’t bring myself to not compete.”

Risks around travelling aren’t new to athletes. Several high profile athletes, including Canadian tennis player Milos Raonic and golf star Rory McIlroy, stayed home from the 2016 Rio Olympics citing concerns around the Zika virus.

“It’s interesting because Zika wasn’t affecting your everyday life. You kind of heard about it, but it was in Brazil, life was normal in Canada,” said Canada’s men’s field hockey captain Scott Tupper. “And so, I don’t know how it would sway someone one way or the other in that we’ve all been living with COVID for nearly a year now.”

Tupper also plans to play in Tokyo, vaccine or no vaccine. Canada’s men’s field hockey team is among those fortunate to have qualified already.

“That is a little bit of a risk that everyone has to do a self-assessment on,” he said. “I’m 34 years old and I’m quite healthy, and I don’t have anything underlying.”

Two-time Olympic trampoline champion Rosie MacLennan said she will also go regardless. And while Canada was a driving force in postponement of the Tokyo Games, MacLennan said there’s comfort in the knowledge gained over the past 11 months, and the fact that other sports such as the NHL, NFL and NBA returned.

“Every event that goes forward, there’s lessons to be learned,” she said. “And I think having a year to learn and kind of watch other leagues, watch other events come together — what’s worked? What hasn’t? There’s a lot more information out there than there was a year ago.”

The Playbook also stressed there won’t be any partying in Tokyo. Athletes are expected to leave soon after their events.

“Canada stopped going to the Olympics for the trip and the track suit a long, long time ago,” McBean said. “We have a really high performing team, they’re professional, every single one of them commits to their sport in a professional career-wise way.

“It’s always nice to be at the Olympics, and to celebrate. (But) I don’t think we’d have a single team member who would say I’d rather go to the party than the sport.”

The IOC and the organizing committee is expected to release more detailed playbooks for athletes, broadcasters, and officials in April and June.

And if Tuesday’s edition was thin on the details, McBean said the fact that it even exists is a victory in itself.

“From the Playbook, I got that athletes get to go to the Games,” she said. “That to me is really, really good news.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Erika Fetterly, owner of EFP Studios, recently launched the Let Them Have A Voice campaign. (Contributed photo)
Central Alberta photographer’s campaign aims to give youths a voice

An Innisfail photographer is giving a platform to young central Albertans so… Continue reading

Chopped Canada-winning chef Pete Sok is trying to focus on the future as he reopens Boulevard Restaurant and Lounge in the Holiday Inn on Gasoline Alley during the pandemic. (Contributed photo)
Red Deer’s celebrity chef looks past the pandemic with new restaurant opportunity

Pete Sok is reopening Boulevard Restaurant — and betting on the future

The Red Deer Rebels hosted the Medicine Hat Tigers in the first game of the shortened 2020-21 season on Friday. The two teams faced off again in Medicine Hat Saturday (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Red Deer Rebels fall to Medicine Hat Tigers on Saturday

Tigers 7 Rebels 2 The Red Deer Rebels have lost two straight… Continue reading

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer reports 25th COVID-19 death

415 new cases identified provincially Saturday

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped save a missing pet recently. The two dogs have more than 80,000 followers on Twitter. (Contributed photo)
WATCH: Red Deer science dogs help save lost pet

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped rescue a missing pet… Continue reading

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta Premier slams vandalism after slur painted on MLA’s office window

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is condemning alleged vandalism at the… Continue reading

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Machin waits to appear at the Standing Committee on Finance on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on Tuesday, November 1, 2016. Executives who engage in so-called "vaccine tourism" show both an ethical disregard for those less fortunate and a surprising lack of business acumen, experts argue. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine tourism is both unethical and bad for business, experts say

Executives who engage in so-called “vaccine tourism” show both an ethical disregard… Continue reading

Edmonton Oilers' Jesse Puljujarvi (13) and Toronto Maple Leafs' Justin Holl (3) battle in front as goalie Jack Campbell (36) makes the save during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, February 27, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
No Matthews, no problem: Minus NHL goal leader, Maple Leafs blank Oilers 4-0

Leafs 4 Oilers 0 EDMONTON — The Maple Leafs knew even with… Continue reading

Leader of the Government in the House of Commons Pablo Rodriguez rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Gummed-up bills in House of Commons: harbinger of a federal election?

OTTAWA — All federal party leaders maintain they don’t want an election… Continue reading

The Pornhub website is shown on a computer screen in Toronto on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Pornhub policies reveal legal gaps and lack of enforcement around exploitive videos

OTTAWA — Serena Fleites was in seventh grade when a sexually explicit… Continue reading

Sean Hoskin stands on a neighbourhood street in Halifax on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Hoskin was diagnosed with COVID-19 almost a year ago with symptoms that still persist. Some provinces have established programs to deal with long-term sufferers but Atlantic Canada, with relatively low numbers of patients, has yet to provide a resource to assist them. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
On East Coast, exhausted COVID-19 ‘long haulers’ hope specialized clinics will emerge

HALIFAX — On evenings when Sean Hoskin collapses into bed, heart pounding… Continue reading

Ottawa Senators goaltender Matt Murray (30) stands in his crease as Calgary Flames left wing Andrew Mangiapane (88), left to right, defenceman Rasmus Andersson (4), Matthew Tkachuk (19), Mikael Backlund (11) and Mark Giordano (5) celebrate a goal during second period NHL action in Ottawa on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Calgary Flames beat Ottawa 6-3 to end Senators’ three-game win streak

Flames 6 Senators 3 OTTAWA — The Calgary Flames used a balanced… Continue reading

Crosses are displayed in memory of the elderly who died from COVID-19 at the Camilla Care Community facility during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on November 19, 2020. The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection is likely to be much higher than recorded because of death certificates don't always list the virus as the cause of a fatality, experts say. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Death certificates don’t accurately reflect the toll of the pandemic, experts say

The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection… Continue reading

Most Read