By Selcuk Bugra Gokalp
ANKARA (AA) – The Olympic Games are finally here again, with the delayed 2020 Tokyo Games set to start on Friday and last through Aug. 8 – postponed from a year ago, during the early months of the pandemic.
Planned initially for summer 2020, the Tokyo Olympics were held back by closed borders, and now a late resurgence in the virus means they will be played without any live spectators, either from Japan or abroad, according to an International Olympic Committee (IOC) ruling.
The decision makes the Games the first to be held without spectators in Olympic history. And as of late Thursday, 87 people accredited to the Tokyo Olympics had tested positive for COVID-19.
The daily number of new coronavirus cases in Tokyo, the Games’ host city, recently rose to over 500, more than double the fewer than 250 daily cases in June.
But with viewership from around the world, the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony will be held tomorrow at the National Stadium in the capital.
- Olympics mascot looks ahead
Miraitowa, the signature mascot of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, was chosen by school-age children.
Its name, combining the Japanese words "Mirai" (future) and "Towa" (eternity), represents the eternal hope for the future in the heart of all humanity, say organizers.
The mascot is a cat-like figure styled with white and indigo and a 2020 Tokyo Olympics emblem on its crown.
- New and returning sports
The Tokyo Olympics will feature five sports newly added to the prestigious lineup: surfing, sport climbing, skateboarding, baseball, and karate.
Baseball/softball, which last appeared in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, was also re-added to the Games.
- Recycled material for coveted medals
In an earth-friendly move, the medals of the Tokyo Olympic Games and Paralympic Games – the stuff of dreams for thousands of athletes – were made this year through recycled materials.
Since 1928, one side of the medals shows Nike, the ancient Greek goddess of Victory, holding a wreath, drawn by Italian artist Gassoili. The reverse side is the emblem of the country that organized the Olympics.
Thousands of hopeful athletes from around the world are taking part in the Games, all with their hearts set on bringing home a gold medal.
The Tokyo Games are set to award 339 gold medals in 36 divisions.
The athlete with the most Olympic medals to his name is retired US swimmer Michael Phelps, boasting fully 28 medals, all but five of them golds.
- Top athletes to watch in Tokyo
Many remarkable athletes from nations worldwide will compete in the 2020 Games.
In men's volleyball, Poland is the standout team, as their squad includes star player Wilfredo León.
Wrestling is a strong event for Turkey, as wrestlers Riza Kayaalp captured bronze in 2012 London and silver in Rio 2016, Taha Akgul grabbed gold in Rio 2016, and Cenk Ildem brought home a bronze medal from Rio 2016.
In gymnastics, four-time Olympic Gold winner Simone Biles of the US is one of many talented American athletes set to take the floor.
Nine-time US Olympic medalist Allyson Felix is expected to be a top runner in the 400-meter relay.
Other US standouts to keep an eye on include Alex Morgan in women's soccer and Kevin Durant in men's basketball.
In swimming, two-time Olympic gold medalist Caeleb Dressel of the US and 200-meter butterfly world record holder Kristof Milak of Hungary are both expected to shine.
In tennis, world no. 1 Novak Djokovic will be in the spotlight, as he has won three Grand Slams held this year, with only one to go, after the Games.
- Turkey chase gold medal in women's volleyball
This year will see the Turkish National Women's Volleyball Team at the Olympics for a second time, following their debut in the 2012 London Games.
The team placed second on two occasions in European Championships, in 2003 and 2019, and also placed third in the FIVB Nations League in 2018, and so are prepping for Tokyo with the wind at their backs.
Turkey will compete in the Women's Preliminary Round Pool B with China, the US, Italy, Russia (competing for the Russian Olympic Committee, under an OIC ruling), and Argentina.