Australia's Olympic team countdown to Tokyo despite trepidation

Australian Olympic Team Chef de Mission Ian Chesterman has praised the response of Australia's Olympians given the difficult year. Picture: Supplied.
Australian Olympic Team Chef de Mission Ian Chesterman has praised the response of Australia's Olympians given the difficult year. Picture: Supplied.

As coronavirus cases surge in Japan and as public sentiment towards the Games continues to grow, Australian athletes are reporting an "overwhelmingly positive" attitude towards Tokyo 2020, according to chef de mission Ian Chesterman.

The former athlete and Australian Olympic Committee vice president said he has met with a large number of athletes from a wide range of sports and none have reported ill feeling at the prospect of competing, despite the indication of a frosty reception.

Mr Chesterman said the team, which revealed its opening ceremony uniform in Sydney this week, were determined and excited to finally get the opportunity to get to Japan and compete.

"Obviously that opportunity has been a long time coming and it's also been a time of uncertainty," Mr Chesterman said.

"They just want to get over there and do what they've working so hard to do which is perform on that Olympic stage."

Members of Australia's Tokyo Olympics team pose during the unveiling of their ceremony uniforms in Sydney this week. Picture: Supplied.

Members of Australia's Tokyo Olympics team pose during the unveiling of their ceremony uniforms in Sydney this week. Picture: Supplied.

More than 41,000 cases of coronavirus have been reported in Japan over the last week, the outbreak centred primarily in Osaka.

A Japanese lawyer calling for the cancellation of the Games has received more than 370,000 signatures to a petition he launched this month.

According to local media, Japanese medical authorities are among those calling for authorities to cancel the potential "superspreader".

With 65 days to go until the opening ceremony, it is still yet to be decided whether domestic crowds will be allowed inside the stadiums. International spectators have been banned.

Mr Chesterman said the Australian Olympic Committee won't know what the Games will look like from that perspective until well into June.

"The commitments always been that the athletes will be able to perform as they would have pre pandemic," he said.

"In terms of our athlete numbers and the support staff that we're able to provide to athletes, that hasn't changed at all."

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Mr Chesterman said the decision for the Games to go ahead was made by the International Olympic Committee in conjunction with the Japanese government.

He said the Australian Olympic Committee held no sway on the decision, which had clearly already been made.

"Our focus must always be on how we get the team there and how we get the team best prepared," Mr Chesterman said.

"For our athletes, their focus remains just on how they can perform their best on what is their Olympic Games."

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games will be held from July 23 to August 8.

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This story Olympic chef de mission reports athlete enthusiasm despite host nation trepidation first appeared on The Canberra Times.