Olympics: Team GB boss Mark England confident Tokyo Games will go ahead

Team GB Chef de Mission Mark England said on Wednesday he is “hugely confident” the Tokyo Olympics will go ahead this year even if they will be different due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Japan recently declared a one-month state of emergency for Tokyo and three nearby prefectures following a dramatic rise in coronavirus cases, and last week the city saw record daily cases for two consecutive days, leaving continued doubt over whether the rescheduled Games can take place in July.

However, England is satisfied they will go ahead as currently scheduled from July 23 to August 8.

“We are hugely confident of the Games going ahead in the summer,” he said after announcing the selection of Team GB’s shooting competitors.

“We certainly wouldn’t be announcing athletes if that wasn’t the case.”

England, who sits on an International Olympic Committee (IOC) working group, said the Games would look different with “incredibly comprehensive” health and safety protocols to protect athletes.

A weekend survey by Japanese public broadcaster NHK showed most locals want to cancel or postpone the Games.

Takeshi Niinami, CEO of beverage giant Suntory Holdings and an economic adviser to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, said he is unsure whether the Olympics could be held as planned.

England said he based his confidence on more than just “a vibe”.

“The Prime Minister of Japan overnight has commented that the Games will go ahead, the IOC are very confident in their planning for the Games to go ahead,” he said.

“There is nothing that we are hearing today that suggests the Games won’t go ahead. We are full steam ahead, planning to embark on Japan from the middle of July and that is our focus of attention.”

Great Britain shooting teams confirmed

World number one Seonaid McIntosh is set to lead a four-strong Great Britain shooting team into the rearranged Games, and the British Paralympic Association has named its first set of athletes in the form of a six-strong shooting contingent.

England said: “While we continue to navigate the unique challenges facing us as result of the pandemic, starting 2021 with this positive announcement is a strong illustration of how committed we are to the Tokyo Olympic Games.”

The 24-year-old McIntosh, whose mother and sister are both former Commonwealth Games medallists, currently tops the rankings in the 3×50 air rifle discipline.

She said despite being far from ideal, the delay of her Olympic debut had given her valuable time to cope with the pressure of expectation that will arrive in the Japanese capital.

“I had a very successful year in 2019 and when 2020 rolled around suddenly it was Olympic year and I was getting really nervous about the prospect,” McIntosh said.

“In some ways this has helped me because the nervousness has dissipated and I feel a lot better, although I guess it will build up again in the next few months.

“I am super-excited about going to Tokyo and I guess if it didn’t happen it would be a bit of a bummer, but we have to remember that the safety of people is far more important than sport.”

Also making their Olympic debuts will be another world champion, Matt Coward-Holley in Olympic trap, plus Aaron Heading and Kirsty Hegarty who compete in the same discipline.

The six-strong Paralympic team compromises Ryan Cockbill, Matt Skelhon, Issy Bailey, James Bevis, Tim Jeffery and Lorraine Lambert.

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