One of the consequences of the year-long delay to the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games is that a summer and winter Games will now take place within six months of each other, the closest in the calendar that they have been since the winter cycle was altered after 1992.
Beijing 2022 will get underway in early February, so how much can British winter Olympians and Paralympians learn from, or be inspired by, watching the unusually close summer Games?
Here, Pyeongchang medallist and BAC ambassador, Laura Deas, gives us an insight into how much attention she’ll be paying to events in Japan. You can also read Dave Ryding’s thoughts on the subject here.
“There’s been quite a bit of talk about the challenges that the weather conditions in Tokyo will pose for athletes competing at the Olympic Games this summer. Average daily highs of over 30 degrees could definitely make competition tricky for all the competitors, not to mention the high humidity levels adding to the challenge further. This could not be further from the picture of us Winter Olympians in PyeongChang, South Korea, back in 2018, shivering in temperatures regularly below minus 10 degrees, not to mention a biting Siberian wind to contend with!
“This is one of many differences between the summer and winter Games, another being the difference in size of the whole affair. On average the summer venues host around 11,000 athletes from over 200 countries, whereas the Winter Olympics tends to feel a little cosier (though not always in temperature!) with only around 3,000 athletes from 90 or so nations. Despite these obvious differences, I can guarantee that when the Tokyo Games finally arrive on the 23 July, winter sport athletes will be watching with intense interest and excitement.
“Unusually, due to the COVID-induced delay of the Tokyo Olympics, there will be a mere five months between the end of the summer Games and the start of the winter ones. Normally there is an extra twelve months, and so the end of the summer Games normally feels like the start of the build-up to our winter Olympic prep, coming at roughly the mid-point of our four-year cycle. Not this time of course, and so without that normal marker I feel like our Olympics has come round fast. I hope that sport lovers are looking forward to so much Olympic sport in such a short space of time!
“This time round I will be watching the athletes compete in Tokyo only a matter of weeks before leaving the UK for my own competitive season of Olympic qualification. I can’t wait for the extra motivation of watching my fellow Team GB members representing their country at the highest level, and I’m sure that’s the case for all winter athletes. Most athletes tend to be sports fans in general so I expect there to be high levels of interest. It really is the pinnacle of an athlete’s career and seeing all our incredible athletes do what they do best will be such inspiration. Many of us also train alongside summer sport athletes so they are also friends as well as team-mates.
“There could be some potential pitfalls to avoid for athletes viewing the Tokyo Games from home – it will be important to not let your enthusiasm levels for keeping up with all the action interfere with your own preparations. For instance, the time difference could mean some late nights or early mornings for viewers back in the UK and Europe, so making sure your own recovery and training isn’t impacted will be key. However, aside from the excitement of watching as a fan, there are also good reasons to be paying close attention to the action. Depending on your sport, there could be some great observations to be had about how Olympic venues and events run, and the general Olympic environment.
“Of course, we will all be watching closely for the impact of the pandemic on the running of the Tokyo Games, and anticipating what carryover that may have to our own experience. We don’t know yet exactly how much the situation in Beijing might be similar or different, so anything we can learn will be vital for our preparation.
“Hopefully, we winter athletes will be riding the wave of incredible support that the public always gives our Olympians and Paralympians from Tokyo right into our first races of the winter, and all the way through to Beijing.”
With attention beginning to switch towards Tokyo, winter sport athletes are reminded that the full suite of BAC support is available to them in the run-up to Beijing and beyond. For advice, support or guidance on any issue, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.