Caribbean athletes overcame many challenges for Tokyo 2020

(ATR) CANOC president Brian Lewis assures that the Olympic Games will be “a symbol of hope”.

(ATR) For Brian Lewis, the reality of the Tokyo Olympics will be “extremely challenging and complex.”

“But a safe and healthy Games will also be a symbol of hope,” the president of the Association of Caribbean National Olympic Committees (CANOC) told Around The Rings.

The statements by Lewis, president of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee, coincided Thursday with the arrival in Tokyo of the first athlete of his delegation, Andrew Lewis, a competitor in sails.

Trinidad and Tobago will compete with 33 athletes in seven disciplines and the opening ceremony of the Games will be held on July 23.

Brian Lewis, CANOC and TTOC president (TTOC)
Brian Lewis, CANOC and TTOC president (TTOC)

The Caribbean Olympic leader expressed that he gives “a lot of credit” to the Japanese authorities and Olympic and Paralympic authorities “for moving forward in the face of many obstacles and criticisms”.

Due to the global coronavirus pandemic, the Tokyo Olympics were postponed for a year, but the postponement did not remove the threat of a permanent suspension, and as the Covid-19 outbreaks grew, so did a groundswell of opinion within Japan itself against holding the Games.

But along with the firm decision of the organizers and the IOC, unprecedented health protocols for the prevention of contagion in Tokyo and other sub-hosts were also increasing and are already being tested.

“The world’s athletes, including our Caribbean athletes, have shown perseverance, dedication, commitment and unwavering courage to continue training in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Lewis.

“They deserve the opportunity to participate. They have sacrificed for years in pursuit of their Olympic dreams,” he adds.

In this context of the pandemic , numerous Caribbean athletes established their preparation base outside the region but many others did so in the Caribbean . “They faced unimaginable challenges to train, there were strict restrictions because of Covid-19, sports were completely shut down.”

Lewis acknowledged that some Caribbean countries benefited from the vaccination program offered by Panam Sports, based in Miami, without major problems.

But in the case of Trinidad and Tobago, he clarified, because their borders were closed and quarantine restrictions were established, it was very expensive for them to send people to South Florida.

However, he described this initiative of Panam Sports as “excellent”.

While vaccination is not mandatory for participation in the Games, the IOC is encouraging inoculation, and IOC President Thomas Bach is confident that most athletes, officials, coaches and medical staff in the Olympic Village will be fully vaccinated.

The Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee is also encouraging 100% vaccination. The majority of the TTO delegation has already been vaccinated, but there are some exceptions that would remain unidentified to protect confidentiality.

Lewis expects to travel to the Japanese capital on July 19.

The Caribbean executive has also been very active in recent times on digital platforms in his messages against racial discrimination and gender inequality in sport .

In one of his most recent proposals, he has requested from the IOC an apology for former U.S. athletes John Carlos, Tommie Smith, Vince Matthews and Wayne Collett and Australian Peter Norman.

Carlos and Smith staged a protest at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico that remains one of the sport’s iconic images. . Norman was the third athlete on the podium in the 200m to wear an Olympic Human Rights Project badge in support of his teammates.

Matthews and Collett are remembered for their protests during the 400-meter medal ceremony at the 1972 Games in Munich, where they spoke to each other and gesticulated while the U.S. anthem was played.

The American runners were sanctioned by the Olympic authorities. As for Norman, some media have claimed that he suffered unofficial penalties on his return to Australia.

Lewis confirmed to ATR that he has not yet received a response from the IOC on his request. But he is not giving up hope.

Reported by Miguel Hernandez