Head coach Bev Priestman has a chance to determine her strongest 18-player roster as Canada come up against Wales and 6th-ranked England in back to back friendlies this month. 9:02
So, are the Canadians ready? For national team standout Ashley Lawrence, the first few days of camp have looked promising.
“It’s a very healthy, competitive environment,” Lawrence told reporters Thursday from Cardiff. “From day one, I’ve been pushed and hopefully I’m pushing others around me. We’ve been looking really good on the field and our goal is to show that in the game [against Wales] and against England.”
It’s the first time in over a year the 25-year-old from Brampton, Ont., has been with her national teammates. She wasn’t released by her professional club, France’s Paris Saint-Germain, for the SheBelieves Cup due to travel restrictions related to the pandemic.
Good to be back 🇨🇦❤️😊<a href=”https://twitter.com/nichelleprince7?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@nichelleprince7</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/sophieschmidt13?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@sophieschmidt13</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/CanadaSoccerEN?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@CanadaSoccerEN</a> <a href=”https://t.co/zOGh0zP7CG”>pic.twitter.com/zOGh0zP7CG</a>
Though she and PSG teammate Jordyn Huitema, Lyon’s Kadeisha Buchanan and injured players like Christine Sinclair and Diana Matheson weren’t at that February camp, Lawrence said she was completely invested, watching all the games and training sessions and even virtually attending team meetings.
But nothing beats being together in person.
“It’s been nice to catch up and see players I haven’t seen in a long time, even some new faces, and also get acquainted with the new staff,” said Canada’s 2019 player of the year.
Priestman eager to gauge progress
Priestman’s first matches in charge at the SheBelieves Cup saw Canada win one game — 1-0 in stoppage time over Argentina — and lose two, a hard-fought 1-0 contest to No. 1 United States and 2-0 to fellow No. 8 Brazil.
While the February tournament wasn’t a true evaluation of her squad, as it was hurt by player injuries and availability issues, Priestman still had concerns over two things — the team’s match fitness and lack of goal scoring.
“I felt that while we were fresh, we could compete,” she said on a recent media call. “I think that U.S. game, granted we lost, but I felt we competed even with a weakened roster. But with the reality of COVID and a lot of players not touching a ball for a long time, I felt that by the third game, physically we struggled.
“The tight turnaround between these [April] games is going to let me see the progress made from a lot of players who’ve gone back to the NWSL, NCAA, particularly North America, they were out of season.”
Those players have since been prepping for the National Women’s Soccer League’s Challenge Cup, which begins this weekend, while the NCAA players have been gearing up for their spring seasons.
Hungry to score goals
Canada’s goal-scoring issue is a more complicated one to solve, but Priestman and her staff are confident it will come if players put the work in.
The staff did an analysis after the tournament and surmised they definitely created chances and were in much better positions against those teams historically, but “ultimately it is about putting the ball in the back of the net,” Priestman said.
“I’ve challenged the group away from camp. You don’t develop in those areas on camp, you have to turn up ready,” she said, adding that many players went back to their clubs and were doing extras after training to gain that confidence.
Manchester City’s Janine Beckie is an example, scoring recently in Champions League against Barcelona and in league versus Tottenham.
“We have to be ruthless in both boxes,” Priestman added. “Stopping goals but also scoring them, and I think you stick with that process [by] getting in those positions. It’ll only help because we had the chances.”
“I think we have shown a lot of growth in a short period of time and we are on the right track,” she said. “We have a lot of players on the field that are hungry to score some goals. We know the quality and the talent that we have. It’s about putting the ball in the back of the net.
“I’m really confident that we’re going to be doing that in these two games.”
The Netherlands national team wore T-shirts on Saturday emblazoned with the words “Football supports change,” in an apparent statement about human rights in World Cup host Qatar, ahead of its Group G qualifier against Latvia.
Defender Matthijs de Ligt had said ahead of the match that the Dutch team wanted to make a statement about the human rights situation in Qatar, saying “it’s a very difficult situation with workers’ rights there.”
The Dutch action before the game at the Johan Cruyff Arena followed expressions of support for human rights by Norway and Germany players ahead of their first World Cup qualifying matches on Wednesday and Thursday.
The German team lined up in black shirts, each with one white letter to spell out “HUMAN RIGHTS,” ahead of the 3-0 win against Iceland in Group J. Midfielder Leon Goretzka said the German players had followed Norway’s lead and that they wanted to make a statement about the 2022 World Cup.
Norway players wore shirts stating: “HUMAN RIGHTS” and “Respect on and off the pitch” before their game against Gibraltar in Group G on Wednesday.
FIFA’s disciplinary code states players and federations can face disciplinary action in cases of “using a sports event for demonstrations of a non-sporting nature.”
FIFA has not opened a case against Norway or Germany for their actions.
The Norwegian national team made a point about human rights again ahead of its game against Turkey in Malaga, Spain. Its players took off jackets for the national anthem to reveal white T-shirts with the message “HUMAN RIGHTS On and off the pitch”, but this time calling on more teams to join forces with them. The shirts also bore the names of Norway and Germany with ticks beside them and the question “Next?”
Qatar, which won the World Cup hosting vote a decade ago, has been under scrutiny over laws and conditions for migrant workers helping to build infrastructure for the tournament.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino said last week Qatar has made social progress because of becoming the World Cup host.
England manager Gareth Southgate said the English Football Association and Amnesty International have been in talks. Amnesty International wrote to the FA last year urging them to put pressure on FIFA to ensure the rights of migrant workers in Qatar are properly protected.
Southgate said talks between the two organizations remain ongoing and that Amnesty are not looking for the tournament to be called off.
“I think in terms of the situation in Qatar, the FA are working closely with Amnesty International and will be talking with Qatar as well,” he said. “My understanding is Amnesty don’t want the tournament postponed or moved. They want to work and highlight issues that maybe could be improved. So, it’s important we work with organizations like that.”
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Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, may have stepped back as working members of the Royal Family. But the attention often focused on the couple now living in California was at a fever pitch this week ahead of their televised interview Sunday night with talk-show host Oprah Winfrey.
Headlines swirled on both sides of the Atlantic, reinforcing an impression of growing tensions and a public relations tug-of-war between the couple and Buckingham Palace.
The American network CBS released clips from the interview, which included Harry’s worries about similarities between the treatment of Meghan and his late mother, Diana, and Meghan accusing the palace of “perpetuating falsehoods.”
All of this comes as Harry’s grandfather Prince Philip continues what has become a lengthy stay in hospital, which has led some to question whether the interview should be broadcast at all right now.
So far, any delay seems unlikely and any sense that things will settle down after the interview seems remote.
“I think the winner is likely to be the media and particularly Oprah,” British PR expert Mark Borkowski said over the phone from the U.K. this week.
“It isn’t going to come out as well as [Harry and Meghan] thought, but at the end of the day, their market is the U.S.A. and North America.”
While the broadcast — initially pegged at 90 minutes and since expanded to two hours — may focus on specifics of their royal life after their marriage in 2018, it’s also widely seen as part of their effort to chart their course outside the upper echelons of the Royal Family.
“Some of the things that they’re likely to say that might rile the Royal Family might rile the British media — that’s obviously a decision they’ve made because they’re building a brand,” said Borkowski.
And their choice of interviewer would appear to have its own strategy, too.
“I think Oprah is probably the best role model for who they’d like to become in terms of what she stands for, the qualities, the philanthropy, the ideals that she espouses,” said American public relations expert Howard Bragman.
It is a case, Bragman said over the phone from Los Angeles, “where [Canadian philosopher and communications theorist] Marshall McLuhan’s ‘the medium is the message’ is certainly at play.”
Bragman expects “a classic Oprah interview.”
“She’s not going to be easy on them. Nobody would respect her. She wouldn’t respect herself and that’s not what she’s known for,” he said.
“She’s going to ask the tough questions but in an empathetic way. She’s been there. Anything you’re talking about, which is giving up your privacy, the scrutiny, some of the backbiting they’ve had to deal with, she’s had to deal with these things. “
The interview Sunday evening comes a few hours after members of the Royal Family will take part in a television broadcast to mark Commonwealth Day. It will include a message from the Queen, with Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall; Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge; and Sophie, Countess of Wessex, also expected to take part.
The broadcast replaces the annual Commonwealth Service usually held at Westminster Abbey in London, which is not possible this year given the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s also in stark contrast to last year’s Commonwealth Service, where senior members of the Royal Family all came together at the abbey, with much observation focusing on how Harry and Meghan were — or weren’t — perhaps getting along with other members of the family.
From Borkowski’s perspective, the Royal Family “is still struggling” with how to deal with all that is swirling around Harry and Meghan right now.
High-profile royal interviews have a shaky track record for turning out as the interviewees might have hoped or intended. There were deep repercussions from Diana’s interview with the BBC in 1995, and from Prince Andrew’s with the BBC in 2019, in the wake of controversy over his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
Both Borkowski and Bragman will be riveted to Sunday’s interview, and expect a lot of other people will be, too. (Deals have been struck to show the interview Sunday or early next week in dozens of countries, ViacomCBS Global Distribution Group has said.)
“It’s still going to have a long tail,” said Bragman. “People will talk, people will look at clips, people will analyze body language, hair and outfits and they’ll tear it apart.”
Overall, Borkowski doesn’t expect it will end well.
“It’s going to fall into two categories. Americans are probably going to love it,” he said. “The Brits are going to say, how dare you.”
Borkowski suggests there might have been another way for Harry and Meghan to get their message out, as they work on building their brand, and their deals with Netflix and Spotify and so on.
“Let their content do the talking,” he said.
Prince Philip still in hospital
While details remain relatively scant regarding Prince Philip’s condition in hospital, Buckingham Palace has said he is recovering after a “successful procedure” for a pre-existing heart condition.
The Queen’s 99-year-old husband was admitted to hospital in London for treatment of an infection on Feb. 16 after feeling unwell.
Earlier this week, he was transferred to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, which has Europe’s largest specialized cardiovascular unit, the BBC reported.
Philip underwent the procedure on Wednesday, and the palace said the following day that he would be staying in hospital to rest and recuperate for a number of days. On Friday morning, Philip was transferred back to the central London hospital where he had been admitted more than two weeks ago.
As is routine when it comes to matters of royal health, few details have been made public regarding Philip.
Given that, many outside the palace walls try to assess the situation in any way they can, observing how other members of the Royal Family — including the Queen — appear to be carrying on with their normal duties.
Any comment a member of the family makes spreads quickly. On Wednesday, Philip’s daughter-in-law, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, was at a COVID-19 vaccination centre in London when a volunteer asked her about him.
“We heard today that he’s slightly improving,” the BBC reported Camilla saying. “So, that’s very good news. We’ll keep our fingers crossed.”
Philip has had various stays in hospital in recent years, including for a hip replacement just before Harry’s wedding three years ago. The current stay is reportedly the longest he has had.
What’s in a royal baby name?
Tapping past generations for a new baby’s name is common in all families, royal or otherwise.
The latest royal baby’s name is in keeping with that practice — but the choice made by Princess Eugenie and her husband, Jack Brooksbank, represents a far less common option than monikers such as Elizabeth or George that recur with some regularity on royal birth certificates.
August Philip Hawke Brooksbank was born on Feb. 9, and his name was announced several days later.
“He is named after his great-grandfather and both of his great x5 grandfathers,” Eugenie wrote on Instagram.
The great-grandfather is Prince Philip. Hawke comes from the Brooksbank side of the family.
Hortense Mancini, a mistress of Charles II, set trends ahead of her time, establishing a salon in 17th-century London where her female peers had the same freedoms as men, new research shows. [The Guardian]
Another high-profile royal interview won’t be investigated by police in London. Controversy had swirled in recent months over the interview Harry’s mother, Diana, gave the BBC in 1995. [ITV]
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Potential threats and leads are pouring in to law enforcement agencies across the U.S. after the insurrection at the Capitol last week. The challenge is now figuring out what’s real and what’s just noise.
Investigators are combing through a mountain of online posts, street surveillance and other intelligence, including information that suggests mobs could try to storm the Capitol again and threats to kill some members of Congress.
Security is being tightened from coast to coast. Thousands of National Guard troops are guarding the Capitol ahead of president-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. Governors and lawmakers are stepping up protections at statehouses after an FBI bulletin this week warned of threats to legislative sessions and other inaugural ceremonies.
A primary concern is the safety of members of Congress, particularly when they are travelling through airports, according to two U.S. officials briefed on the matter.
The FBI and other federal authorities are using their substantial resources to prepare. But smaller local police departments lack the staff to hunt down every tip. They must rely heavily on state and federal assessments to inform their work, and that information sometimes slips through the cracks — which apparently happened last week.
Schools ‘better protected than the Capitol’
A day before the deadly attack on the Capitol, the FBI sent an intelligence bulletin warning of potential violence to other agencies, including the Capitol Police. But officials either did not receive it or ignored it — and instead prepared for a free-speech protest, not a riot. It took nearly two hours for reinforcements to arrive to help disperse the mob. Five people died, including a Capitol officer.
“There are some grammar schools that are better protected than the Capitol,” said Brian Higgins, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York and the former chief of a northern New Jersey police force.
Since last week, the FBI has opened 170 case files and received more than 100,000 pieces of digital media. The threats have ranged in specificity and complexity, according to officials briefed on them, making it difficult for authorities to determine which could be credible.
Combing through intelligence isn’t the same as shoe-leather detective work. Large departments like New York and Los Angeles have dedicated intelligence units — the NYPD even disseminated its own bulletin ahead of the riot. But smaller police forces rely on joint terrorism task forces and so-called “fusion centres” that were set up around the country after the 2001 attacks to improve communication between agencies.
Norton, Kan., Police Chief Gerald Cullumber leads a seven-member department in the northwestern part of the state. He said he relies on larger agencies like the Kansas Highway Patrol because his agency is too small to do its own intelligence work. But Cullumber said he stays up to date on the latest information and briefs his officers.
“It doesn’t mean that we rest on our laurels,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that we ignore things.”
Once they receive intelligence reports, it’s up to local agencies to plan and take action to keep their communities safe, said Rich Stanek, the former sheriff of Hennepin County in Minnesota who now works in consulting and started the Public Safety Strategies Group.
“If I was the sheriff today, I would be taking it very seriously,” he said. “If they told me Jan. 17 is the date, yeah, I think it’s reasonable to plan for one week ahead and one week behind.”
Mike Koval, who retired in 2019 as the police chief in Madison, Wis., said his state’s two fusion centres have technology and resources that go far beyond those of a single local police department.
Staying on top of all the potential intelligence on the internet is like “going to a water fountain to get a drink of water, and it’s coming out with the strength of a fire hydrant and it will take your jaw off,” Koval said.
Meanwhile, elected officials nationwide, including President Donald Trump, have started to urge calm amid the threats. Trump egged on the riots during a speech at the Washington Monument, beseeching his loyalists to go to the Capitol as Congress was certifying Biden’s victory. He took no responsibility for the riot.
“In light of reports of more demonstrations, I urge that there must be NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO vandalism of any kind,” Trump said in a statement Wednesday. “That is not what I stand for, and it is not what America stands for. I call on ALL Americans to help ease tensions and calm tempers.”
Experts say explicit or implicit bias likely helped downplay last week’s threat because the protesters were white, and that must change, said Eric K. Ward, a senior fellow with the Southern Poverty Law Center and an expert on authoritarian movements and hate groups.
That could be why Capitol police were so unprepared, compared with the much more aggressive law enforcement response to last summer’s protests following the death of George Floyd and other Black men killed by law enforcement.
To borrow a phrase we hear too often these days, an NHL season like no other opens Wednesday night. Here are some big-picture things to know about the pandemic-shortened 2021 campaign:
It’s going to be a lot trickier this time
Last year, the NHL made it through an entire two-month playoff tournament without a single player testing positive for the coronavirus. But all those games were played in hermetically sealed environments in Toronto and Edmonton, with everyone involved in the games quarantined from the public.
This time there’s no bubble. Teams are playing out of their own arenas, so players are living at home and, for road games, travelling by plane and staying in hotels. Some buildings could even have fans in them.
The Arizona Coyotes plan to allow up to 3,450 people at their January home games. And, this was a long shot, but Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk tweeted Tuesday that he submitted a proposal for 6,000 fans to attend his team’s games (then quickly deleted the tweet and issued a backpedalling statement).
Non-bubbled leagues have all run into problems here in North America. The NBA pulled off a spotless 2020 playoffs at Disney World, but has already had to postpone several games this season now that the bubble is gone.
Major League Baseball and the NFL were both hit by team-wide outbreaks that threatened to put their seasons on hold or turn it into a farce.
The Dodgers’ Justin Turner got yanked in the middle of a World Series game because of a positive test.
The Broncos’ starting quarterback one week was a practice-squad wide receiver. The Browns played a playoff game without their head coach. But both leagues marched on.
The NHL says it’s prepared to be flexible, and it’s already had to bend the schedule.
The Dallas Stars’ first three games were postponed after an outbreak on the team last week. Three other teams have either held players out of practice or cancelled activities due to test results.
WATCH | League must adapt to uncertainty caused by virus:
The puck drops on the NHL’s new season and the all-Canadian division this week and though there are concerns about playing and travelling during the COVID-19 pandemic, the league says it’s prepared to be flexible to the circumstances. 2:00
Get ready to feel déjà vu
Due to the late start and a desire to make sure the 2021-22 season starts on time, this season is only 56 games for each team — down from the usual 82. And, to reduce travel, the NHL realigned its four divisions and cut out all interdivisional games.
So, in the three eight-team divisions, everyone will play each other eight times. In the seven-team, all-Canadian North Division, they’ll play each other nine or 10 times. Teams will often play each other two or even three times in a row.
The Stanley Cup playoffs (scheduled to start May 11) will be more of the same.
It’s still a 16-team, four-round tournament with best-of-seven-series, but this year the top four teams in each division will qualify and they’ll square off against each other for the first two rounds. So we won’t see an interdivisional matchup until the semifinals, which will start in June.
The all-Canadian division should be a hit
This season was in desperate need of a hook to distract us from the dreariness of empty arenas and the inevitable depleted rosters and postponed games.
So the Canadian government may have actually done the NHL a favour by refusing to allow teams to fly in and out of the country for games — leading to the creation of the all-Canadian North Division.
The downside is that we could see the same two teams play each other up to 17 times this year if they meet in the playoffs. The upside is that every one of these games will feature two of the NHL’s most passionate fan bases.
On the ice, familiarity tends to breed contempt.
So there’s more chance for deep-rooted rivalries like Edmonton vs. Calgary and Toronto vs. Montreal to boil over and produce heated games. For a league that’s been looking for ways to juice up its too-long regular season, this might be the ticket.
Read about the big storylines to follow on each of the seven Canadian teams in this piece by Vicki Hall and get Rob Pizzo’s picks below.
WATCH | CBC Sports’ Rob Pizzo ranks the all-Canadian division:
For the first time, all 7 Canadian teams will be in one division. Rob Pizzo predicts which four will make the playoffs. 5:47
There are faces in new places
Everyone’s got bigger fish to fry right now, so don’t feel bad if you forgot Joe Thornton is a Leaf, Taylor Hall is a Sabre, Alex Pietrangelo is a Golden Knight, Torey Krug is a Blue and Max Domi is a Blue Jacket.
In addition to those notable skaters changing addresses, a bunch of goalies switched teams.
Jacob Markstrom went from Vancouver to Calgary, Braden Holtby from Washington to Vancouver, Cam Talbot from Calgary to Minnesota, Devan Dubnyk from Minnesota to San Jose and Matt Murray from Pittsburgh to Ottawa.
And that’s not even all of them.
WATCH | Evaluating NHL’s goaltending carousel:
Rob Pizzo catches you up on the significant changes between the pipes this season. 2:43
A few big names won’t be playing at all
Henrik Lundqvist, who ended his 15-year tenure with the Rangers to chase a Cup in Washington, is out for the season after undergoing heart surgery.
St. Louis defenceman Jay Bouwmeester retired this week after experiencing a scary heart problem of his own last season.
Longtime Chicago goalie Corey Crawford retired last weekend, backing out of his two-year deal with New Jersey before ever suiting up for them.
And 2020 playoff scoring leader Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning is expected to miss the regular season (but could return for the playoffs) after hip surgery.
Fifty-seven years ago, the 1964 Tokyo Olympics signified the rebirth of a nation that had risen from the ashes of the Second World War. Those Games helped launch the beginning of an extended expansion that turned Japan into an economic superpower.
But with the rescheduled 2020 Games set to begin July 23, the story is much different. The contrast is ironic.
“Most people are against it because of coronavirus issues, restrictions, costs in economic downturn, etc. If no COVID-19, then the majority would be for it,” said Robert Whiting, a Tokyo resident and an author and journalist who specializes in contemporary Japanese culture.
Back in the early 1960s, most Japanese were initially opposed to hosting the Olympics, but ultimately came to cherish the symbolism of the event.
More than a half-century later, the population appeared ready to back staging the Summer Games again, only to have a pandemic derail the event and flip public opinion in the process.
“When Japan won the bid in 1959 most people were against the idea,” said Whiting, who in 2018 published “The Two Tokyo Olympics 1964/2020.” “The cost was too high and Tokyo had a lot of problems.”
Whiting noted a litany of issues that organizers were confronted with ahead of Japan’s first Olympics as the host nation.
“There was only one five-star hotel — the Imperial — which was falling into disrepair, no highway system, you couldn’t drink the tap water and only one fourth of structures in the city had flush toilets,” Whiting said. “But the city put up eight new expressways, two subway lines, five new five-star hotels, a monorail to and from Haneda Airport and a bullet train.”
The transformation of Tokyo in five years was nothing short of phenomenal.
1964 a ‘huge success’
“Life Magazine called it the ‘best Olympics ever’ [at the time] and the Games were a tremendous source of pride for Japanese, symbolized their re-entry into the global community after defeat in war,” Whiting said. “It was a huge success.”
In the leadup to the 2020 Games, most polls showed a majority of Japanese were in favour of hosting another Summer Olympics, but once the COVID-19 crisis began and persisted, the pendulum began to swing the other way.
On Thursday, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared a state of emergency for Tokyo and surrounding prefectures, the same day the city reported a record of 2,447 new cases of COVID-19. Japan has attributed over 3,500 deaths to COVID-19, relatively low for a country of 126 million.
But two polls in recent months illustrated the sentiments as the rescheduled Games draw closer. Sixty per cent of those who responded to an Asahi TV poll in November wanted the extravaganza postponed or cancelled outright, while a Kyodo News poll in July found that just 24 per cent supported holding the Olympics as scheduled.
The ever-increasing cost of staging the Games has soured many and made the athletic part of the Olympics almost an afterthought.
I am a little bit disappointed that more than 80 per cent of the people feel that the Olympics can’t be held.– Japan’s Kohei Uchimura, Olympic gymnastics gold medallist
Japan’s National Audit Board released a report in December that estimated costs for the 2020 Olympics would run to $ 28 billion, with only $ 5.6 billion coming from private funds.
“I don’t believe this is an efficient use of taxpayer money,” said Sanae Tanaka, a Tokyo resident. “This could be spent in more useful ways. Do we really need to use it for the Olympics?”
“I am worried about holding the Tokyo Olympics in this situation,” added Yuriko Komiyama. “I wonder if the situation will get better before next summer.”
The negativity that has begun to envelop talk of the Games has even trickled down to the athletes. In a recent interview, gymnastics legend Kohei Uchimura, the 2012 and 2016 Olympic gold medallist in the men’s all-around discipline and a six-time world champion in the event, cited his concerns.
Caution and safety
“I am a little bit disappointed that more than 80 per cent of the people feel that the Olympics can’t be held,” Uchimura said. “I would like everyone to think, ‘What can I do?’ and change their mindset in that direction. I know it is very difficult, but I wonder if the athletes will be able to perform unless they have the same feelings.”
Two-time Olympic figure skater (1976, 1980) and TV personality Emi Watanabe thinks caution and safety should be prioritized with regard to the Games.
“I know the pandemic has changed training schedules and many athletes in the world are suffering because they are not able to practice because of lockdowns,” Watanabe said. “We all have to sacrifice what is best for the human race rather than rush to hold the Olympics until COVID-19 disappears from our planet. I think it should wait until the world is a safe place again.”
The Tokyo-based anti-Olympic group Hangorin No Kai, which participated in a protest during a visit by IOC president Thomas Bach to Japan in November, made its feelings known in written responses to a series of questions submitted to them.
Rather than enhancing medical care and social security associated with COVID-19, a huge budget will be used to hold the Olympics and Paralympics.– Anti-Olympic group Hangorin No Kai
“Our mission is to stop the Tokyo Olympics and have the Olympics abolished,” the group, which was formed in 2013, wrote. “The IOC and Tokyo Olympics organizers have never tried to meet with us.”
Hangorin No Kai indicated that the overwhelming majority of the public they have conversed with are concerned about long-term issues and how hosting the Olympics will impact society.
“Rather than enhancing medical care and social security associated with COVID-19, a huge budget will be used to hold the Olympics and Paralympics.”
When asked if their views would be different if the Olympics and surrounding costs were entirely privately financed, the group didn’t hold back.
Novelty worn off
“We have already lost public spaces and services, including the privatization of public parks due to privatization for the Olympics,” Hangorin No Kai said. “At present, the promotion of the Olympics has even invaded public education and has caused great damage like brainwashing and mobilizing students to support the Olympics. In addition to these, there is concern that the privatization of public education will be accelerated if the event is held with private investment.”
Whiting believes the novelty of hosting the Olympics, which the country has done three times previously (Tokyo 1964, Sapporo 1972, Nagano 1998), had worn off for the Japanese ahead of the Tokyo 2020 bid.
“Now, people are more blasé. Been there, done that,” Whiting said. “Many think the Games are too expensive and money should have been spent on the March 11, 2001, [earthquake and tsunami] recovery. Businesses were against it.”
Whiting pointed out that despite several missteps early on, most people did support hosting the Games again after the bid was secured.
“When Japan won the bid in Buenos Aires [in 2013] attitudes began to change,” Whiting said. “People got behind it despite embarrassments like the flawed National Stadium design, vote-buying scandal, plagiarized logo, e-coli in Tokyo Bay, where water events were to be held, and holding the Games in the brutal summer heat. The 1964 Games were held in October because the [Japan Olympic Committee] said summer was too hot.”
Japan-Forward.com sportswriter Ed Odeven, who has lived in the country for 14 years and covered multiple Olympics, believes there is still hope for the 2020 Games.
“There’s no one-size-fits-all opinion about the likelihood of Japan staging the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics,” Odeven said. “Plenty of people have doubts, but many observers within Japan can point to the successful completion of the Nippon Professional Baseball season, with gradual increases in maximum spectator capacity up to 50 per cent of venue capacity by season’s end.
“Other pro sports circuits, including soccer’s J. League and basketball’s B. League, and big competitions such as multiple Grand Sumo Tournaments have also adjusted to playing during the global pandemic, adhering to government health experts’ advice,” Odeven said. “This includes frequent COVID-19 testing for athletes, social distancing for fans in the overall seating setup and face masks for venue workers, media and fans.”
Odeven cited the recent approval of vaccines as being significant.
“The COVID-19 vaccine now starting to be administered could reduce fears about international travel to Japan for the Olympics if the efforts show a significant reduction in coronavirus cases,” Odeven said. “And that viewpoint would spread considerably among Tokyo 2020 organizers, athletes, coaches, etc. if other nations can demonstrate that the vaccine is working.
“People don’t seem to be particularly enthusiastic about anything set for next summer,” Odeven said. “Everyone is just eager for [the pandemic] to end and for the massive impact of the pandemic on their lives — and all of the disruptions to normal routines — to go away as soon as possible.”
Odeven thinks the vaccines are the silver bullet that could restore faith in holding a massive sporting event in one of the biggest cities in the world in the wake of a pandemic.
“The vaccines are the real litmus test,” Odeven said. “If they can make a real impact in slowing down the spread of the coronavirus around the world, I think people’s expectations about the Olympics will rise.”
A senior member of the International Olympic Committee has said he “can’t be certain” the postponed Tokyo Olympics will open in just over six months because of the surging pandemic in Japan and elsewhere.
The comments by Canadian IOC member Richard Pound to British broadcaster the BBC came as Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared a state of emergency on Thursday for Tokyo and surrounding prefectures.
“I can’t be certain because the ongoing elephant in the room would be the surges in the virus,” Pound said speaking about the future of the Tokyo Games.
Japan’s emergency order, which is largely voluntary, will be in force until the first week of February.
Tokyo reported a record of 2,447 new cases on Thursday, a 50 per cent increase from the previous day — which was also a record day. Japan has attributed over 3,500 deaths to COVID-19, relatively low for a country of 126 million.
It’s crunch time for Tokyo. Organizers say the Olympics will take place, but they are not expected to reveal concrete plans until spring. That’s about the same time the torch relay begins on March 25 with 10,000 runners crisscrossing the country for four months leading to the opening ceremony on July 23.
Pound also hinted athletes should be a high priority for a vaccine because they serve as “role models.” Pound’s comments seem to contradict IOC President Thomas Bach.
Bach said in a visit to Tokyo in November that athletes should be encouraged to get a vaccine, but would not be required to. He also indicated they should not be a priority. Bach said that nurses, doctors and health care workers should be first in line for a vaccine, ahead of healthy, young athletes.
“Athletes are important role models, and by taking the vaccine they can send a powerful message that vaccination is not only about personal health, but also about solidarity and consideration for the well being of others in their communities,” Pound said.
Vaccines could come slowly in Japan
Reports suggest that the vaccine rollout in Japan is likely to be slowed by the need for local clinical trials. Some vaccines might not be readily available until May, although Suga said some would be ready in February.
The Japanese public is becoming skeptical. A poll of 1,200 people last month by national broadcaster NHK showed 63 per cent favoured another postponement or cancellation.
The IOC has said the Olympics, first delayed by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, will not be postponed again and would be cancelled this time.
The budget for the Tokyo Olympics is also soaring. The new official budget is $ 15.4 billion US, which is $ 2.8 billion above the previous budget. The new costs are from the delay.
Several audits by the Japanese government have said the costs are closer to at least $ 25 billion US. The University of Oxford in a study published four months ago said these are the most expensive Summer Olympics on record. This was before the cost of the delay was added.
All but $ 6.7 billion US of Olympic funding is public money.
U.S. president-elect Joe Biden on Monday told Georgia Democrats they had the power to “chart the course” for a generation as President Donald Trump rehashed old grievances over his November loss in final pleas ahead of run-off elections that will determine control of the U.S. Senate.
Trump made his final-hours pitch to voters at a nighttime rally in north Georgia, where Republicans were banking on strong voter turnout on Tuesday to reelect Sen. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue and hold control of the chamber.
Earlier, Biden campaigned with Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in Atlanta, hoping he could recreate the coalition that secured him a narrow victory in the presidential race in November.
“Folks, this is it. This is it. It’s a new year, and tomorrow can be a new day for Atlanta, for Georgia and for America,” Biden said at a drive-in rally. “Unlike any time in my career, one state — one state — can chart the course, not just for the four years but for the next generation.”
The stakes have drawn hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign spending to a once solidly Republican state that now finds itself as the nation’s premier battleground. Biden won Georgia’s 16 electoral votes by about 12,000 votes out of five million cast in November, though Trump continues pushing false assertions of widespread fraud that even his now-former attorney general and Georgia’s Republican secretary of state — along with a litany of state and federal judges — have said did not happen.
Trump’s call refuted
The president’s trip Monday came a day after disclosure of a remarkable telephone call he made to the Georgia secretary of state over the weekend. Trump pressured Republican Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn Georgia’s election results ahead of Wednesday’s joint session of Congress that will certify Biden’s electoral college victory. The call highlighted how Trump has used the Georgia campaign to make clear his continued hold on Republican politics.
WATCH | Trump asks Georgia officials to ‘find’ the votes he needs to win:
The U.S. president is heard pleading with Georgia’s election chief to overturn Joe Biden’s win in the state, according to audio clips obtained by The Washington Post. 1:30
On Monday, a top election official from Georgia offered a point-by-point refutation of many of Trump’s allegations on the Saturday phone call.
Gabriel Sterling, the voting systems administration manager, said the election was not stolen and mass voter fraud did not occur in his state. But he said the best way to counter that would be to vote in Tuesday’s Senate run-off election.
“If that’s what you genuinely in your heart of hearts believe, turn out and vote. There are people who fought and died and marched and prayed and voted to get the right to vote. Throwing it away because you have some feeling that it may not matter is self-destructive, ultimately, and a self-fulfilling prophecy in the end.”
WATCH | Trump’s call to Georgia’s secretary of state met with outrage:
Democrats and Republicans are both expressing outrage about U.S. President Donald Trump’s weekend phone call to Georgia’s secretary of state, pressuring him to “find” thousands of votes in his favour to overturn the state’s results in the presidential election. It all comes ahead of state run-off votes for Senate seats. 2:47
‘Swamp’ the polls
Angry after the Raffensperger call, Trump floated the idea of pulling out of the rally but was persuaded to go ahead with it so he will have a chance to reiterate his claims of election fraud. Republicans are wary as to whether Trump will focus only on himself and fail to promote the two Republican candidates.
Trump, at a rally in Dalton, Ga., again pressed false claims that the November election was “rigged” and urged Republicans to “swamp” the polls Tuesday.
“The Democrats are trying to steal the White House, you cannot let them,” Trump said. “You just can’t let them steal the U.S. Senate, you can’t let it happen.”
Biden on Monday took aim at Trump’s scheme by declaring that “politicians cannot assert, take or seize power” by undermining legitimate elections.
Biden said he needs a Senate majority to pass legislation to combat the coronavirus, and he blasted Perdue and Loeffler as obstructionist Trump loyalists. Loeffler says she will join other Republican lawmakers in objecting to the electoral college certification of Biden’s victory by Congress on Wednesday.
“You have two senators who think they’ve sworn an oath to Donald Trump, not the United States Constitution,” Biden said.
WATCH | A visibly exasperated Sterling on Trump’s allegations about the Georgia election:
Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s voting system implementation manager, accuses the legal team of U.S. President Donald Trump of intentionally misleading the public. 2:51
Ossoff and Warnock have campaigned with warnings that a Republican Senate will stymie Biden’s administration, especially on pandemic relief.
Warnock pushed back at the deluge of Loeffler television ads casting him as a socialist. “Have you noticed she hasn’t even bothered to make a case, Georgia, for why you should keep her in that seat?” Warnock said, speaking ahead of Biden. “That’s because she has no case to make.”
More than three million Georgians already have voted. Monday’s push is focused on getting voters to the polls Tuesday. Democrats ran up a wide margin among 3.6 million early votes in the fall, but Republicans countered with an election day surge, especially in small towns and rural areas.
Even with Biden’s statewide win, Perdue led Ossoff by 88,000 votes in November, giving the Republican confidence in the run-off. The run-offs were required because none of the candidates reached a majority vote, as required by Georgia law. Despite Perdue’s initial advantage, early voting figures suggest Democrats have had a stronger turnout heading into Tuesday, and leading Republicans have expressed concerns about the pressure that puts on their turnout operation.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford is expected to announce sweeping new public health measures later today as the province tries to curb a climbing number of COVID-19 cases and increasing strain on hospitals.
Ford is scheduled to hold a news conference beginning at 1 p.m. ET at Queen’s Park. The premier’s office says he will be joined by the ministers of health and education, as well as the province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams.
You’ll be able to watch the news conference live in this story.
Sources told CBC News on Sunday that new measures will include a 28-day lockdown for all parts of the province south of Sudbury.
The restrictions in these areas will look much as they did during Ontario’s initial shutdown in the spring, with only essential businesses remaining open. The specific list of closures and guidelines was still being fine-tuned over the weekend, the sources said.
Areas north of Sudbury, however, will move into a two-week lockdown, the sources said, and winter break for elementary students across Ontario could be extended by up to two weeks.
The measures come against a backdrop of modelling that forecasts, under any scenario, Ontario could see up to 300 patients with cases of COVID-19 in intensive care units by the end of December.
In a worst-case scenario, that number could balloon to more than 1,500 by mid-January, said public health officials at a morning briefing.
You can see the full government modelling at the bottom of this story
During the height of the first wave of the illness in Ontario, some 264 patients required intensive care. As of this morning, there were 265 people with COVID-19 in Ontario ICUs.
Over the past four weeks, officials said, there have been a 69.3 per cent increase in overall hospitalizations of patients with COVID-19 and an 83.1 per cent jump in the number of patients requiring intensive care.
Experiences in other jurisdictions, such as in Victoria, Australia and France, four to six-week “hard lockdowns” have resulted in “dramatic reductions” in case numbers, officials said.
The forecasts come as hospitals in some of Ontario’s hardest-hit regions are warning of unsustainable pressures on front-line staff and rippling effects throughout the health-care system. Last week, CBC Toronto reported nearly half of all ICU beds at one Scarborough hospital were taken up by COVID-19 patients.
In a joint statement over the weekend, hospitals in the Greater Toronto Area, along with the Ontario Hospital Association, said that health-care workers are “stressed and overstretched.”
Rising admissions of patients with COVID-19 mean that some hospitals have already been forced to postpone or cancel unrelated procedures, many of which were already put off in the spring.
“This level of strain is simply not sustainable for much longer,” the statement said, adding that a potential surge following the holiday season will only make things worse.
2,123 more cases of COVID-19
Meanwhile, Ontario reported another 2,123 cases of COVID-19 this morning as admissions to intensive care topped those seen during the first wave of the pandemic.
It is the seventh straight day of more than 2,000 further cases in the province.
The new cases include 611 in Toronto, 480 in Peel Region, 192 in York Region and 138 Windsor-Essex. All four public health units, along with Hamilton, are currently in the grey lockdown tier of the province’s COVID-19 response framework.
In lockdown zones, restaurants can offer only takeout and delivery service, and only retailers that have been deemed essential can stay open.
Other public health units that saw double-digit increases in today’s report were:
Waterloo Region: 94
Halton Region: 92
Durham Region: 91
Niagara Region: 68
Simcoe Muskoka: 61
Brant County: 16
Eastern Ontario: 11
(Note: All of the figures used for new cases in this story are found on the Ontario Health Ministry’s COVID-19 dashboard or in its daily epidemiologic summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit because local units report figures at different times.)
Combined, the additional infections push the seven-day average to 2,276, the highest it has been at any point during the pandemic.
The Ministry of Education also reported 154 new cases that are school-related: 119 students and 35 staff members. Around 976 of Ontario’s 4,828 publicly funded schools, or about 20.2 per cent, have at least one case of COVID-19.
There are currently 19,019 confirmed, active cases of the illness in Ontario, also a new record high.
The province’s network of labs processed 54,505 test samples and reported a test positivity rate of 4.7 per cent.
Public health officials also reported 17 more deaths of people with COVID-19, pushing the official toll to 4,167.
Here’s the latest modelling on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ontario:
Provinces discussed their respective COVID-19 vaccine rollout plans and urged patience following Monday’s announcement that Canada is expecting to receive up to 249,000 doses of a vaccine by the end of December.
Health Canada is expected to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine this week, and the first shipments are on track to arrive next week. Immunization for this vaccine requires two doses administered weeks apart, so the initial batch would be enough for nearly 125,000 Canadians.
Pfizer advises that its vaccine be stored in a freezer at –80C to –60C or in a thermal container at temperatures of –90C to –60C. The vaccine is to be delivered to 14 sites across Canada, with doses divided up on a per-capita basis among the provinces.
Here’s a look at how provinces and territories are planning for the arrival of the first round of vaccines.
Retired Gen. Rick Hillier, who is leading Ontario’s vaccine task force, said the province should be able to vaccinate 1.2 million people during the first three months of 2021 — but noted that there is still uncertainty around the initial rollout and there is no firm timeline yet.
WATCH | Rick Hillier discusses Ontario’s vaccine rollout plan:
Retired General Rick Hillier says Ontario hopes to provide an “efficient” and “equitable” COVID-19 vaccination program, to provide every eligible person across the province with the opportunity to voluntarily get vaccinated. Watch the video for more details about the province’s three-phased plan of rolling out the vaccine. 3:08
“Every single day we learn something more about the characteristics and the properties of the vaccine and one of things is that the stability data when it’s moved is uncertain,” Hillier said, noting that the 85,000 doses will be available in the province this month. “As of right now, we may be restricted somewhat in moving it after we receive it.”
Premier Doug Ford said Monday that vulnerable seniors, their caregivers and health-care workers will be among the first to receive the vaccine. Adults in Indigenous communities, residents of retirement homes and recipients of chronic home health care will also be priority groups, but it may be April before the shots are widely available to others.
Hillier said the vaccine will be more broadly available to the public starting in April during the second phase of the rollout, and it will take between six to nine months to distribute across the province. “People are going to have to be patient that their turn will come,” he said.
Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé said the province should receive four boxes of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine by next Monday, which will allow for 2,000 people at two unspecified long-term care homes to be vaccinated.
Between 22,000 and 28,000 Quebecers will be immunized against COVID-19 by Jan. 4, as the province receives more doses of the vaccine, Dubé said.
WATCH | Christian Dubé discusses Quebec’s rollout plan
Residents of long-term care homes and health-care workers will be the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Quebec. 1:53
“Yes, today’s news is good news, but let’s not let it distract us. We have to stay focused,” he said.
Residents of long-term care homes and health-care workers will be the first to be vaccinated, he said, followed by people living in private seniors’ residences and those in isolated communities, including Indigenous communities. Those four groups represent about 547,000 people living in Quebec.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey said the province will get 1,950 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine next week, with more to come later.
“Thank God,” he said. “Hope is on the horizon … [but] we are not there yet,” he said.
Furey also said last week that vaccination will be “highly suggested” but not mandatory.
A spokesperson for New Brunswick’s Department of Justice and Public Safety said up to 1,950 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine should arrive “around Dec. 14 as part of the first of two shipments that may occur this month.”
Those doses would be enough to vaccinate 975 people.
The province is working to “identify the priority groups that will receive the vaccine in the first phase of vaccinations based on recommendations from the federal government,” spokesperson Shawn Berry said in an email.
“Any doses that do arrive ahead of January will be provided to members of those priority groups based on New Brunswick’s operational plan.”
Nova Scotia’s Department of Health said in a statement to CBC News that the province is expected to receive 1,950 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine next week.
Before that, the province will participate in a dry-run exercise with the manufacturer, the federal government, Dalhousie University and health system partners to prepare for the vaccine’s arrival. The exercise will test shipping, delivery, tracking and storage, but will not include the vaccine.
Prince Edward Island
Since provincial allocation will be done on a per-capita basis, P.E.I. is expected to receive just over 1,000 doses of the first allotment of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
“We’re a small jurisdiction, so we will be able to get around and service Islanders probably more quickly than any other jurisdiction will,” P.E.I. Premier Dennis King said on Nov. 27.
Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, said the province is prepared to receive any doses the federal government ships its way, but expects they would be “very limited in quantity.”
“The sooner we are able to receive the vaccine, the better,” he said. “We’re certainly prepared to receive vaccine at any time now, but we just need to set up the expectations that this is going to be a very limited supply, especially early on. And so it will be very minimal scope on who we can immunize with it.”
Getting the vaccine out to everyone who needs it will be “a huge undertaking,” Roussin said. He added that planning for the rollout has made significant progress and he expects details to be announced in the near future.
Last week, Premier Brian Pallister said Manitoba had acquired one of the freezers needed to store the Pfizer/BioNTech; the low storage temperature poses logistical challenges for distributing the vaccine to remote areas.
WATCH | Experts discuss the COVID-19 vaccine rollout:
As Canada prepares to distribute millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines, Chair of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization Dr. Caroline Quach-Thanh and David Levine, who managed the H1N1 vaccine rollout for Montreal, say this vaccination campaign won’t be without challenges. 3:05
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said the province has an ultra-low-temperature freezer that’s required to store the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and that Saskatchewan’s vaccine distribution plan will be revealed Tuesday.
Moe says vaccinations will happen in a staggered approach as the province receives more doses throughout 2021. He said the plan is to start with inoculating health-care workers and vulnerable residents, like seniors living in long-term care homes.
Alberta is expected to receive 3,900 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine next week, which would be enough to inoculate 1,950 people.
The provincial government has said it will prioritize frontline health-care workers and vulnerable demographics, such as seniors in long-term care.
WATCH | BioNTech says its vaccine could ship within 24 hours of Health Canada approval:
Sean Marett, chief business and chief commercial officer for BioNTech, says once Canada approves the Pfizer rollout, the vaccine could ship within 24 hours. 9:41
Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s public health officer, said the province expects to receive its first delivery of the vaccine next week.
“It will be a start of our program, a very important start, but just a small amount to start with to ensure that we get our logistics going,” Henry said. “But our ability to start protecting elders and seniors, particularly in our care homes and the health-care workers who care for them, will be an important step forward in our COVID-19 struggle.”
Henry said she and other provincial officials will deliver a full briefing on B.C.’s vaccine rollout plan later in the week.
Yukon, N.W.T. and Nunavut
Trudeau said the “more significant logistical challenges” associated with distributing the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine means it won’t be going to northern communities right away. He said territorial residents would be among those to be inoculated with the first three million doses, which are expected in the beginning of 2021 and would also include the Moderna vaccine.
“We have worked very closely with the premiers in the northern territories, as well as Indigenous leaders across the country. We know that they are a priority population,” Trudeau said. He said the first three million doses would be a mix of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer, said last week that the territory is more likely to get the Moderna vaccine because the Pfizer vaccine’s strict storage and shipping requirements aren’t appropriate for remote communities.
Neither the Northwest Territories health department, nor Yukon’s office of the chief medical officer of health, immediately responded to a request for comment.
WATCH | Nunavut’s top doctor calls Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine ‘impractical’ for remote areas:
Given the extreme cold storage requirements for shipping the Pfizer vaccine, Nunavut’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson says it’s impractical for remote communities. 0:19