Sport Olympics exec orders reluctant Australian public official to attend Tokyo opening ceremony: 'You are going'
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Look no further to understand the power dynamic between the Olympics and the nations that host them.
As the Tokyo Olympics launched a soft start ahead of Friday's opening ceremony, the International Olympic Committee. Hours after the news was announced on Wednesday, Australian Olympic Committee President John Coates and Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk answered questions at a news conference in Tokyo.
That's where the following happened.
Coates took issue with Palaszczuk's previous statements that she and the rest of the Brisbane delegation didn't plan to attend the Tokyo opening ceremony. He ordered her to attend — while sitting next to her on a stage for all the world to see.
Where are the Olympics in 2021? Locations, venues & more to know about Tokyo Games
Sporting News breaks down everything you need to know about the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, including locations, venues and more.The 2021 Olympics, delayed a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, will finally take place from July 23 through Aug. 8 in Tokyo, even as the pandemic continues to take its toll not just on the sports world, but the world at large. Indeed, the 2021 Olympics — including the opening and closing ceremonies — will be held without spectators amid growing coronavirus numbers in Japan.
'You are going to the opening ceremony'
‘You are going to the opening ceremony.’ Here is that awkward exchange between AOC President John Coates and Queensland Premier— Michael Rowland (@mjrowland68) at a media conference in Tokyo last night.
“You are going to the opening ceremony. I am still the deputy chair of the candidature leadership group," Coates said to uncomfortable laughter from the media corps in attendance. "And so far as I understand, there will be an opening and a closing ceremony in 2032, and all of you have got to get along there and understand the traditional parts of that, what’s involved in an opening ceremony."
"So none of you are staying and hiding in your rooms, all right."
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Palaszczuk remained momentarily silent before responding: “I don’t want to offend anybody, so ... "
Coates then continued:
"You've never been to an opening ceremony have you?" Coates said. "You don’t know the protocols. I think it’s a very important lesson for everyone here. Opening ceremonies cost in the order of $75 million to $100 million. It’s a major, major exercise for any organizing committee. It puts the stamp on the Games. It's very important to the broadcasts that follow.
"It’s my very strong recommendation that the premier and the lord mayor and the minister be there and understand it."
Palaszczuk: 'I'm going to do whatever John Coates tells me to do'
, Palaszczuk told an Australian morning show on Thursday that she intends to comply with Coates' orders.
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"My mind and body are simply not in sync," the gymnast wrote on Instagram, explaining how she was feeling, the risks of her routine and her current practice routine in Tokyo. Very Olympic Today is SI’s daily Olympics newsletter. You can receive each issue for free in your inbox by subscribing here. To continue reading the newsletter at SI.com every day, along with the rest of our Olympics coverage, readers can subscribe to SI.com here.In the early morning hours on Friday, Simone Biles took to Instagram, posting a series of training videos and answering questions from fans.
"I'm going to do whatever John Coates tells me to do," she said. "I am not going to offend the International Olympic Committee now that we have been awarded the Games."
In case it's not clear, Coates is a powerful IOC vice president. Palaszczuk is the elected chief executive of the Australian state — Queensland — set to host the games.
The American rough equivalent of this scene would seebarking orders at California Gov. Gavin Newsom in public because Los Angeles was awarded the 2028 Summer Olympics — which, of course, she hasn't done.
Olympics continue to flex power
But it's a prime example of the power and the sway the Olympics hold over their host nations — a lesson Japan is learning in no uncertain terms right now. The Games are going on despitebecause of the nation's ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
Tokyo is a densely populated city lagging in vaccines rates and experiencing. With fans banned and business shut down, the city and nation won't reap the economic benefits that normally come with hosting the Olympics.
Mystery Solved: Why the 2021 Olympics are still called the ‘Tokyo 2020’ Olympics
In fact, throughout Tokyo, “2020” is everywhere. Because the 2021 Olympics are, officially, the 2020 Olympics. “There are many reasons,” a Tokyo organizing committee source told Yahoo Sports. One of them, he said, was that “last year in March, torches, medals, other branding items, and merchandise were already being made using the name ‘Tokyo 2020’ and a name change would have meant additional costs.” Maintaining the ‘Tokyo 2020’ brand In other words, Olympic organizers had already committed millions upon millions of dollars to the "Tokyo 2020" brand.
In short, many in Japan don't want to put the nation's public health at further risk to a potential super spreader event so some games can be played. But the Games will go on. Because the IOC holds the power thanks to ato cancel them.
So if John Coates wants Annastacia Palaszczuk to attend Friday's opening ceremony against her better judgment, then Palaszczuk is going to attend the opening ceremony.
More Olympics coverage from Yahoo Sports:
A pandemic Olympics, without all the crowds: What gets lost? .
TOKYO (AP) — Any sporting event is, at its heart, a show. It has the actors on center stage, performing for the rest of us. It has the spectators, sitting in their seats watching raptly. And — in modern times, at least — it has the “home” audience, which in the past half century of growing video viewership has far outpaced the numbers of those actually in attendance. At their halfway point, the Tokyo Olympics are still grappling with the fact that in that equation, the middle group — those spectators on the scene who cheer, gin up enthusiasm and add texture to the proceedings — couldn't come.