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Team GB athletes exercising in ‘prison yard’ to stay safe for Tokyo Olympics

Zoe Smith feels a bit like a ‘prisoner’ as she lives the life of a 2021 Olympian, writes Alex Spink in Tokyo.

The London-born weightlifter aims to raise the spirits of a nation when she competes in her second Games.

But she knows already that Tokyo will bear no comparison to her five-ringed debut in her home city nine years ago.

Team GB have yet to move into the Olympic Village where the first positive case was reported on the day infection rates in Tokyo hit a six-month high.

Yet they are taking no chances with Smith revealing: “We just can’t go anywhere. The restrictions are pretty tight, even down to having a designated escorted walking time, which is between 7am and 10am.

“We’ve got what is essentially a prison yard to walk in, so everyone is doing laps up and down that, like a promenade, which is interesting.”

Smith: “We’ve got what is essentially a prison yard to walk in, so everyone is doing laps up and down”

London 2012 was a summer-long carnival, bringing the nation together in a way those who experienced it will not forget.

Tokyo has no such feel-good factor with locals vehemently opposed to the world descending on a city operating under a state of emergency.

Already it feels like the Ghost Games but Smith cheerfully acknowledges that is a price the athletes are willing to pay in exchange for the competition going ahead at all.

IOC president Thomas Bach: "Many people feel under stress. They have to face uncertainty and there you react with some skepticism"

“We’re here to do a job and we have to make sure we get there safe and protect the health of each other and the Japanese public,” she said. “That’s of most importance to us.”

Ironically British athletes could be made to feel at home with the sound of London 2012 crowds being piped through speakers into empty stadia.

IOC president Thomas Bach also revealed plans to create a virtual spectator experience.

Smith: "we have to make sure we get there safe and protect the health of each other and the Japanese public"
Smith: “we have to make sure we get there safe and protect the health of each other and the Japanese public”

This is to include a “live cheer map” displayed in stadiums, which will show on a map where fans are watching from and allow them to clap virtually.

Bach knows that these Olympics won’t win over everyone as “you will always have different opinions and such a discussion becoming more heated and emotional in the situation of a pandemic is something we have to understand.”

He added: “Many people feel under stress. They have to face uncertainty and there you react with some skepticism. This is human life. Therefore, what we can do only is to try to gain their confidence in these strict Covid measures.”




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