Tag Archives: Tokyo

North Korea says it won’t participate in Tokyo Olympics due to COVID-19 concerns

North Korea said it will not participate in the Tokyo Olympics because of the coronavirus pandemic.

A website run by the North’s sports ministry said the decision was made during a national Olympic Committee meeting on March 25 where members prioritized protecting athletes from the “world public health crisis caused by COVID-19.”

South Korea’s Unification Ministry on Tuesday expressed regret over the North’s decision, saying it had hoped that the Tokyo Olympics would provide an opportunity to improve inter-Korean relations, which have declined amid a stalemate in larger nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang.

Japanese Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa told reporters she was still confirming details and couldn’t immediately comment on the matter.

North Korea sent 22 athletes to the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, along with government officials, performance artists, journalists and a 230-member all-female cheering group.

Politics and sports

At the Pyeongchang Games, the North and South Korean athletes jointly marched under a blue map symbolizing a unified Korean Peninsula, while the red-clad North Korean cheerleaders captivated global attention.

The Koreas also fielded their first combined Olympic team in women’s ice hockey, which drew passionate support from crowds despite losing all five of its games with a combined score of 28-2.

Those games were also much about politics. The North Korean contingent included the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who conveyed her brother’s desire for a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, a move which helped it initiate diplomacy with South Korea and the United States.

That diplomacy has stalemated since, and North Korea’s decision to sit out the Tokyo Olympics is a setback for hopes to revive it.

WATCH | Olympic torch begins 121-day journey:

Japanese torchbearer Azusa Iwashimizu, a member of Japan’s women’s national football team, lit the Tokyo Olympic torch to begin the relay in Fukushima, Japan. 0:40

While North Korea has steadfastly claimed to be coronavirus-free, outsiders widely doubt whether the country has escaped the pandemic entirely, given its poor health infrastructure and a porous border it shares with China, its economic lifeline.

Describing its anti-virus efforts as a “matter of national existence,” North Korea has severely limited cross-border traffic, banned tourists, jetted out diplomats and mobilized health workers to quarantine tens of thousands of people who had shown symptoms.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga previously said he expected to invite U.S. President Joe Biden to the Olympics and was willing to meet with Kim Jong-un or his powerful sister, Kim Yo Jong, if either attended the Games. Suga, however, did not say if he will invite either of them.

Kim Jong-un in recent political speeches has pledged to bolster his nuclear deterrent in the face of U.S.-led pressure, and his government has so far rejected the Biden administration’s overture for talks, demanding that Washington abandon its “hostile” policies first.

The North ended a yearlong pause in ballistic testing activity last month by firing two short-range missiles off its eastern coast, continuing a tradition of testing new U.S. administrations with weapons demonstrations aimed at measuring Washington’s response and wresting concessions.

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Canadian Olympic men’s soccer hopes dashed by Mexico in Tokyo qualifier

Canada has fallen short in its bid for its first Olympic men’s soccer berth in 37 years.

Uriel Antuna and Johan Vasquez scored to lift mighty Mexico to a 2-0 victory over Canada in the do-or-die semifinals of the CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship Sunday.

The Mexicans, who won Olympic gold in 2012, clinched their 12th Olympic berth with the victory. The Canadian men, which haven’t played on the Olympic stage since 1984, are forced to wait another three years.

The Canadians knew they faced a mammoth battle against a CONCACAF giant that has never lost to Canada in a competitive match on its home soil. Canada came into the game 0-4-2 against Mexico at the under-23 level in CONCACAF Olympic qualifying since 1992.

WATCH | Canada loses in semis to Mexico:

Canada fell short of a spot at the Tokyo Olympics after losing 2-0 to Mexico at the CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship. 1:23

Canada’s defence was excellent in keeping Mexico off the scoreboard through 57 minutes before Mexico capitalized on a risky pass up the middle by goalie James Pantemis that went straight to the opponent.

Antuna, who’s scored eight goals in 16 appearances for Mexico’s full national side, was open just inside the box and one-timed a pass past Pantemis, who was otherwise solid all night.

Mexico delivered more heartbreak in the 64th minute when Vasquez out leapt Canadian defenders to get his head on a free kick.

The Mexicans outshot Canada 19-3, and 6-1 on target.


Canada had an early chance scuttled when Tajon Buchanan was taken down just outside Mexico’s box. Buchanan raised his arms in frustration when no foul was called.

Mexico outshot Canada 7-2 in the first half, including three on target, their first chance coming from a header off a corner kick in the 19th minute that sailed just wide of the net.

There were some scary moments midway through the first half when Pantemis appeared to hurt his right shoulder when he dove to deflect a shot from Antuna. Pantemis, a 24-year-old who plays for CF Montreal in Major League Soccer, grimaced in pain on the pitch for a couple of minutes but stayed in the game.

He was forced into action less than a minute later, diving to smother another attack from Antuna.

The half ended in a shoving match that brought Mexico’s substitutes off the bench.

Lucas Dias was a bright spot on the night in his first start for Canada. The 18-year-old displayed his skill early on, dribbling through three Mexicans in the midfield before being fouled. Dias, who plays in Lisbon for Sporting CP’s U23 squad, replaced previous team captain Derek Cornelius, who twisted a knee against Honduras and surely had a tough night watching from the bench.

Mexico remains undefeated

Canada finished second in Group B behind Honduras on goal difference after the teams played to a 1-1 draw on Thursday. Mexico went undefeated to win Group A.

Canada’s senior squad, meanwhile, watched the game from Bradenton, Fla., and sent a good luck message via video. The Canadians were slated to play the Cayman Islands on Sunday, but the game was delayed a day due to issues with pre-match COVID-19 tests taken by the Cayman Islands delegation, which did not meet FIFA requirements.

Canada’s women, the two-time reigning Olympic bronze medallists, have already clinched their Tokyo berth.

Mexico will play Honduras in the tournament final. The Americans will miss their third consecutive Olympics after a 2-1 loss to Honduras in the other semifinal Sunday.

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Fans from outside Japan banned from attending Tokyo Olympics

Spectators from abroad will be barred from the Tokyo Olympics when they open in four months, the IOC and local organizers said Saturday.

The decision was announced after an online meeting of the International Olympic Committee, the Japanese government, the Tokyo government, the International Paralympic Committee, and local organizers.

The move was expected and rumoured for several months. Officials said the risk was too great to admit ticket holders from overseas during a pandemic, an idea strongly opposed by the Japanese public. Japan has attributed about 8,800 deaths to COVID-19 and has controlled the virus better than most countries.

“In order to give clarity to ticket holders living overseas and to enable them to adjust their travel plans at this stage, the parties on the Japanese side have come to the conclusion that they will not be able to enter into Japan at the time of the Olympic and Paralympic Games,” the Tokyo organizing committee said in a statement.

About 1 million tickets are reported to have been sold to fans from outside Japan. Organizers have promised refunds, but this will be determined by so-called Authorized Ticket Resellers that handle sales outside Japan. These dealers charge fees of up to 20 per cent above the ticket price. It is not clear if the fees will be refunded.

WATCH | How the pandemic changes sports overnight:

In the blink of an eye, everything in the sports world changed, culminating in the mayhem that ensued on March 11, 2020. 5:14

“We could wait until the very last moment to decide, except for the spectators,” said Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the organizing committee. “They have to secure accommodations and flights. So we have to decide early otherwise we will cause a lot of inconvenience from them. I know this is a very tough issue.”

IOC President Thomas Bach called it a “difficult decision.”

“We have to take decisions that may need sacrifice from everybody,” he said.

The financial burden of lost ticket sales falls on Japan. The local organizing committee budget called from $ 800 million income from ticket sales, the third largest income source in the privately finance budget. Any shortfall in the budget will have to be made up by Japanese government entities.

Overall, Japan is officially spending $ 15.4 billion US to organize the Olympics. Several government audits say the actual cost may be twice that much. All but $ 6.7 billion is public money.

About 4.45 million tickets were sold to Japan residents. Organizers are expected next month to announce the capacity at venues, which will be filled by local residents.

The ban on fans from abroad comes just days before the Olympic torch relay starts Thursday from Fukushima prefecture in northeastern Japan. It will last for 121 days, crisscross Japan with 10,000 runners, and is to end on July 23 at the opening ceremony at the National Stadium in Tokyo.

The relay will be a test for the Olympics and Paralympics, which will involve 15,400 athletes entering Japan. They will be tested before leaving home, tested upon arrival in Japan, and tested frequently while they reside in a secure “bubble” in the Athletes Village alongside Tokyo Bay.

Athletes will not be required to be vaccinated to enter Japan, but many will be.

In the midst of Saturday’s meeting, Bach and others were given a reminder about earthquake-prone northeastern Japan — and Japan in general.

A strong earthquake shook Tokyo and triggered a tsunami warning as Bach and others made introductory remarks before the virtual meeting. The strength was put a 7.0 by the U.S. Geological Survey and the location was in northeastern Japan, an area hit by a huge earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

“I think the screen is shaking. Have you noticed the screen is shaking,” Tamayo Marukawa, Japan’s Olympic minister, said as she made her presentation from Tokyo talking remotely to Bach visible on a screen in Switzerland. “We’re actually in the midst of an earthquake right now.”

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Tokyo Olympics hit by another scandal over sexist comment

Tokyo Olympics creative director Hiroshi Sasaki is resigning after making demeaning comments about a well-known female celebrity.

It is yet another setback for the postponed games and another involving comments about women. The Olympics are to open in just over four months, dogged by the pandemic, record costs and numerous scandals.

In February, the president of the organizing committee Yoshiro Mori was forced to resign after making sexist comments, saying women talk too much in meetings.

Two years ago, the head of the Japanese Olympic Committee Tsunekazu Takeda was also forced to step down in a bribery scandal connected to vote-buying involving International Olympic Committee members.

Sasaki was in charge of the opening and closing ceremonies for the Olympics, which are to begin on July 23. Last year he told planning staff members that well-known entertainer Naomi Watanabe could perform in the ceremony as an “Olympig.”

Watanabe is a heavy-set woman and very famous in Japan, and “Olympig” was a play on the word “Olympic.”

‘It is unforgivable’

Sasaki released a statement early on Thursday saying he was stepping down. He said he had also called Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the organizing committee, and tendered his resignation.

“For Ms. Naomi Watanabe, my idea and comments are a big insult. And it is unforgivable,” Sasaki said. “I offer my deepest regrets and apologize from the depth of my heart to her, and those who may have been offended by this.”

“It is truly regrettable, and I apologize from the bottom of my heart,” he added.

Hashimoto, who replaced Mori, was scheduled to speak later on Thursday.

Sasaki formerly worked for the giant Japanese advertising company Dentsu Inc., which has been a key supporter of these Olympics. It is the official marketing partner and has helped to raise a record of $ 3.5 billion in local sponsorship, almost three times as much as any previous Olympics.

The torch relay for the Olympics kicks off next week from northeastern Japan and will be a severe test with 10,000 runners crisscrossing Japan for four months, heading to the opening ceremony and trying to avoid spreading COVID-19.

Organizers and the IOC insist the Olympics will go forward during the pandemic with 11,000 Olympic and 4,400 Paralympic athletes entering Japan. Official costs for Tokyo are $ 15.4 billion but several government audits show the real cost might be twice that much.

A University of Oxford study says Tokyo is the most expensive Olympics on record.

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IOC, China make vaccine deal for Tokyo, Beijing Olympians

The International Olympic Committee and China have teamed up to offer vaccines to athletes and teams preparing for the upcoming games in both Tokyo and Beijing.

The collaboration with Chinese Olympic officials was announced Thursday during an online IOC meeting.

“We are grateful for this offer, which is in the true Olympic spirit of solidarity,” IOC president Thomas Bach said.

Bach said the IOC would “pay for extra doses” for Olympic and Paralympic participants.

Japan’s vaccination rollout has been relatively slow despite the upcoming Tokyo Games. It was launched in February, months after other major countries.

The Tokyo Olympics are set to open on July 23, and the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing are scheduled for February.

Heading off concerns that athletes might jump the line to get vaccinated, Bach said extra doses for the general public will be given to countries taking part in the program.

“The IOC will pay for two doses more, which can be made available for the population in the respective country according to their needs,” Bach said.

Distribution will be through international agencies or existing vaccine agreements countries have with China, Bach said.

China, where the COVID-19 outbreak emerged in late 2019, has actively engaged in vaccine diplomacy, using doses developed by Sinovac and Sinopharm.

Research by The Associated Press this month showed China has pledged about a half billion doses of its vaccines to more than 45 countries.

Bach said the agreement with China would help fulfil promises to Olympic organizers and competitors that the games will be staged safely.

He said the project was “our demonstration of solidarity with the Japanese people for whom we have such high respect and whom we hold in such high regard.”

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Japan reportedly to stage Tokyo Olympics, Paralympics minus overseas spectators

Japan has decided to stage this summer’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics without overseas spectators due to public concern about COVID-19, Kyodo news agency said on Tuesday, citing officials with knowledge of the matter.

The Tokyo 2020 games organizing committee said in response that a decision would be made by the end of March.

The Olympics, postponed by a year because of the pandemic, are scheduled for July 23 to Aug. 8 and the Paralympics from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5.

Kyodo said the government had concluded welcoming fans from abroad would not be possible given public concern about the coronavirus and the detection of more contagious variants in many countries, Kyodo cited the officials as saying.

The opening ceremony of the torch relay would also be held without any spectators, Kyodo said.

“The organizing committee has decided it is essential to hold the ceremony in the northeastern prefecture of Fukushima behind closed doors, only permitting participants and invitees to take part in the event, to avoid large crowds forming amid the pandemic,” Kyodo said, quoting the officials.

Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto has said she wants a decision on whether to let in overseas spectators before the start of the torch relay on March 25.

“Five parties, the IOC, the IPC [International Paralympic Committee], Tokyo 2020, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the national government, came together for a meeting via online just last week,” the organizing committee said in response to the Kyodo report.

“The decision regarding allowing spectators from overseas to attend the Tokyo 2020 Games will be made by the end of March based on factors including the state of infections in Japan and other countries, possible epidemic-prevention measures, and expert scientific advice will be considered.”

Public wary

In the last Olympic Games, the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, local fans accounted for 80 per cent of all ticket sales, with international fans buying 20 percent.

While coronavirus infection numbers have been relatively low in Japan compared with the United States and many European countries, the country has been hit hard by the third wave of the pandemic and Tokyo remains under a state of emergency.

Japan has recorded more than 441,200 COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, with the death toll at more than 8,300.

Most Japanese people do not want international visitors to attend the Games amid fears that a large influx could spark a resurgence of infections, a Yomiuri newspaper poll showed.

The survey showed 77 per cent of respondents were against allowing foreign fans to attend, versus 18 per cent in favour.

Some 48 per cent said they were against allowing any spectators into venues and 45 per cent were in favour.

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How a 22-year-old woman helped bring down the Tokyo Olympics chief

When a 22-year-old Japanese college student launched an online campaign against the powerful Tokyo Olympics chief and the sexist remarks he made, she was not sure it would go very far.

But in less than two weeks, Momoko Nojo’s #DontBeSilent campaign organized with other activists and gathered more than 150,000 signatures, galvanizing global outrage against Yoshiro Mori, the president of Tokyo 2020.

He quit last week and has been replaced by Seiko Hashimoto, a woman who has competed in seven Olympic Games.

The hashtag was coined in response to remarks by Mori, an octogenarian former prime minister, that women talk too much. Nojo used it on Twitter and other social media platforms to gather support for a petition calling for action against him.

“Few petitions have got 150,000 signatures before. I thought it was really great. People take this personally too, not seeing this as only Mori’s problem,” said a smiling Nojo in a Zoom interview.

Her activism, born from a year studying in Denmark, is the latest example of women outside mainstream politics in Japan taking to keyboards to bring social change in the world’s third-largest economy, where gender discrimination, pay gaps and stereotyping are rampant.


Japan’s Olympic Minister, Seiko Hashimoto, right, talks with Yoshiro Mori at a meeting in December. Hashimoto has been named Mori’s replacement as president of the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee. (Associated Press)

‘Good opportunity to push for gender equality in Japan’

“It made me realize that this is a good opportunity to push for gender equality in Japan,” said Nojo, a fourth-year economics student at Keio University in Tokyo.

She said her activism was motivated by questions she has often heard from male peers like, “You’re a girl, so you have to go to a high school that has pretty school uniforms, don’t you?” or “Even if you don’t have a job after graduating from college, you can be a housewife, no?”

Nojo started her nonprofit “NO YOUTH NO JAPAN” in 2019, while she was in Denmark, where she saw how the country chose Mette Frederiksen, a woman in her early forties, as prime minister.

The time in Denmark, she said, made her realize how much Japanese politics was dominated by older men.

Keiko Ikeda, a professor of education at Hokkaido University, said it was important for young, worldly people to raise their voice in Japan, where decisions tend to be made by a uniform group of like-minded people. But change will come agonizingly slowly, she said.

“If you have a homogeneous group, it’s impossibly difficult to move the compass because the people in it don’t realize it when their decision is off-centre,” Ikeda said.

Proposal dismissed as PR stunt

Nojo dismissed a proposal this week by Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party to allow more women in meetings, but only as silent observers, as a poorly-executed PR stunt.

“I’m not sure if they have the willingness to fundamentally improve the gender issue,” she said, adding that the party needed to have more women in key posts, rather than having them as observers.

In reality, Nojo’s win is only a small step in a long fight.

Japan is ranked 121st out of 153 countries on the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Gender Gap Index — the worst ranking among advanced countries — scoring poorly on women’s economic participation and political empowerment.

Activists and many ordinary women say drastic change is needed in the workplace, and in politics.

“In Japan, when there’s an issue related to gender equality, not many voices are heard, and even if there are some voices to improve the situation, they run out of steam and nothing changes,” Nojo said.

“I don’t want our next generation to spend their time over this issue.” 

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Head of Tokyo Olympics resigns over sexist comments

Yoshiro Mori resigned Friday as the president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee following sexist comments implying women talk too much.

“As of today I will resign from the president’s position,” he said to open an executive board and council meeting. The board was expected to pick his successor later on Friday.

“My inappropriate comments have caused a lot of chaos,”he said. He repeated several times he had regret over the remarks, but also said he had “no intention of neglecting women.”

Mori’s departure comes after more than a week of non-stop criticism about his remarks earlier this month. He initially apologized but refused to step away, which was followed by relentless pressure from television pundits, sponsors, and an online petition that drew 150,000 signatures.

But it’s not clear that his resignation will clear the air and return the focus to exactly how Tokyo can hold the Olympics in just over five months in the midst of a pandemic.

The Olympics are to open on July 23, with 11,000 athletes and 4,400 more in the Paralympics a month later. About 80 per cent in recent polls in Japan say they want the Olympics cancelled or postponed, with clear support from about 15 per cent.

Early reports said the 83-year-old Mori had picked 84-year-old Saburo Kawabuchi, the former president of the governing body of Japanese soccer and a former player himself. He played for Japan in the 1964 Olympics.

WATCH | Head of Toyko Olympics under fire for sexist comments:

Tokyo Olympics chief Yoshiro Mori acknowledged that his comments that women board members talked too much were ‘inappropriate’ and against the Olympic spirit. Mori said that he would not resign, however. 2:03

Kawabuchi is even older than Mori and will raise the issue of why a woman was not appointed. This is the centre of the entire debate that Mori triggered over gender inequality in Japan and the absence of women in boardrooms, politics, and sports governance. Women are also largely absent in leadership roles at the organizing committee.

Kawabuchi indicated on Thursday he had been contacted by Mori. But he said later he indicated he might not be the appropriate choice.

Japanese media immediately pointed out there were three qualified women — all athletes and former Olympians and at least a generation younger — who could fill the job.

Kaori Yamaguchi won a bronze medal in the 1988 Olympics in judo. Mikako Kotani won two bronze medals in the 1988 Olympics in synchronized swimming. And Naoko Takahashi was a gold medallist in the marathon in the 2000 Olympics.


The Olympics are to open on July 23, with 11,000 athletes and 4,400 more in the Paralympic a month later. About 80 per cent in recent polls in Japan say they want the Olympics cancelled or postponed. (Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty Images)

Spotlight on gender equality

Seiko Hashimoto, the current Olympic minister and a former Olympian, has also been mentioned as a candiate.

Mori’s remarks have put the spotlight on how far Japan lags behind other prosperous countries in advancing women in politics or the boardrooms. Japan stands 121st out of 153 in the World Economic Forum’s gender equality rankings.

Koichi Nakano, a political scientist at Sophia University in Tokyo, characterized Japan as a country still run “by a club of old men.” But he said this could be a watershed.

“Social norms are changing,”he wrote in an email to The Associated Press. “A clear majority of the Japanese found Mori’s comments unacceptable, so the problem is more to do with the lack of representation of women in leadership positions. This sorry episode may have the effect of strengthening the call for greater gender equality and diversity in the halls of power.”


A lifebuoy is pictured on a shore near the Olympic Rings in Tokyo. With less than six months to go until the start of the Games, speculation persists about the viability of the Games going ahead as scheduled in July. (Getty Images)

Though some on the street called for Mori to resign — several hundred Olympic volunteers say they are withdrawing — most decision makers including Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga stopped short of this and simply condemned his remarks.

A comment a few days ago from Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda seemed to move the needle.

Toyota is one of 14 so-called Olympic TOP sponsors that pay about $ 1 billion US every four-year cycle to the International Olympic Committee. The company seldom speaks out on politics, and Toyota did not call for Mori’s resignation. But just speaking on the matter might have been enough.

“The (Mori) comment is different from our values, and we find it regrettable.” Toyoda said.

Toyota and Coca-Cola also are major sponsors of the torch relay.

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Head of Tokyo Olympics expected to resign over sexist comments: reports

The long saga of Yoshiro Mori appears to be near the end.

Japan’s Kyodo news agency and others reported on Thursday — citing unnamed sources — that Yoshiro Mori will step down on Friday as the president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee.

The move follows his sexist comments about women more than a week ago, and an ensuing and rare public debate in Japan about gender equality.

A decision is expected to be announced on Friday when the organizing committee’s executive board meets. The executive board of Tokyo 2020 is overwhelmingly male, as is the day-to-day leadership.

The 83-year-old Mori, in a meeting of the Japanese Olympic Committee more than a week ago, essentially said that women “talk too much” and are driven by a “strong sense of rivalry.” Mori, a former prime minister, gave a grudging apology a few days later after his opinions were reported, but declined to resign.

This is more than just another problem for the postponed Olympics, which have made the risky choice of trying to open on July 23 in the middle of a pandemic with 11,000 athletes — and later, 4,400 Paralympic athletes.

Country lags in gender equality

More than 80 per cent of the Japanese public in recent polls say the Olympics should be postponed or cancelled.

Mori’s remarks have drawn outrage from many quarters and have put the spotlight on how far Japan lags behind other prosperous countries in advancing women in politics or the boardrooms. Japan stands 121st out of 153 in the World Economic Forum’s gender equality rankings.

Though some on the street have called for him to resign — several hundred Olympic volunteers say they are withdrawing — most decision makers have stopped short of this and have simply condemned his remarks. Japan is a country that works largely on consensus with politicians — often elderly and male — acting behind the scenes and leaking trial balloons to sense public sentiment.

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Canadian women’s soccer coach Priestman approaching SheBelieves Cup as Tokyo tune-up

A few days into training for the upcoming SheBelieves Cup in the warmth of Orlando, Florida, the Canadian women’s soccer team has shared the requisite happy tears, belly laughs and of course, the shake-off-the-rust practise sessions.

Now, it’s time for the real work to begin.

The national team has been in an 11-month standstill due to the coronavirus pandemic, and now, in its first camp since March 2020, has just six months to chase a third-straight Olympic medal at this summer’s Tokyo Games.

So what exactly is new head coach Bev Priestman expecting out of her first Canadian camp?

“I already get a sense of real hunger, desire, excitement for the group to get back together,” she said on a recent virtual call with reporters.

“It’s about connecting again. There’s a whole group of players who aren’t yet in season and so I think just getting back on the ground and building some of the ideas … and then we’re into a back-to-back tournament setting, which is exactly where [we] want to be, playing some of the best teams in the world.”

WATCH | Canada coach Priestman targeting podium finish at Tokyo Games:

Canada Soccer’s Women’s National Team named a new head coach just nine months out from the upcoming Summer Olympics. Bev Priestman tells Signa Butler her plans for Tokyo and the future of the program. 6:01

There are 29 players in training for the SheBelieves Cup, a four-team invitational tournament featuring some of the top nations in women’s soccer, including the reigning FIFA Women’s World Cup champion United States and No. 8-ranked Brazil.

This year, due to Covid restrictions, Canada (also No. 8) took the place of No. 6 England, while Argentina (No. 31) is filling in for Japan (No. 10).

Canada’s European-based players will join the rest of the squad this weekend and the roster will be trimmed to 23 just before Canada opens against its longtime rival, the U.S., on Feb. 18.

New faces look to make impression

There is a freshness to this first camp of 2021. Yes, there’s a new coach, but also six uncapped invitees and a few other players with less than five appearances at the senior level.

This team has seen very little turnover since winning bronze at Rio 2016.

Veterans Rhian Wilkinson and Melissa Tancredi hung up their cleats shortly after those Olympics and with a handful of others expected to do the same following Tokyo, Priestman is conscious of the need for new faces and new ideas. Not only ahead of the Olympics, but also as they attempt to qualify for the next World Cup in 2023, hosted by Australia and New Zealand.

Among those hoping for a first crack on the senior side include Canadian youth international player of the year Jade Rose, Evelyne Viens of Sky Blue FC, Bianca St-Georges of Chicago Red Stars, Jordyn Listro of Orlando Pride, Rylee Foster of Liverpool FC and Samantha Chang from the University of South Carolina.


With so many well-established players on the senior team, Priestman said she can’t predict whether some of these new faces might make the final 18-player roster for Tokyo, but this is their chance to knock on the door.

“They’ve been brought in for a reason, they’ve shown some attributes that I think this group needs, so I’ve just said to them bring what it is that’s brought you here,” she said. “But I do know that group of senior players will welcome them with open arms.”

If there’s one thing Priestman has been clear about since beginning her tenure in October, it’s that she values bravery and “the Canadian mindset.” She wants to dominate with and without the ball and wants players willing to do whatever it takes to wear the Canadian badge.

Essential to the culture of the Canadian team is the work done over the last 15 years by the senior leadership, some which are still playing (Christine Sinclair, Diana Matheson, Erin McLeod, Sophie Schmidt, Desiree Scott), and those who’ve retired (Wilkinson, Tancredi).

The veteran group has always made sure that the next generation coming in feels as much a part of the team as those who have been around for over a decade — an integral component to their success.

Priestman saw it first-hand when she was an assistant under former coach John Herdman.

“Any player that went into the women’s national team is welcomed with open arms. [The players] know that having that blend of experience and youth with the future in mind is really important.”

Playing catch-up

There are a million clichés about time, but it’s also about how you use it.

The reality of the pandemic has meant adapting, whether that’s been watching games on TV rather than in-person, holding virtual one-on-ones or group culture meetings, or spending more time writing reports on players and comparing them with other staff members.

“The COVID reality can’t be an excuse for this group and it might be the thing that brings a certain amount of freshness in the sense that we’re all dying to get on that pitch,” Priestman said.

Having a tournament setting against top-tier nations like the U.S. and Brazil, in particular, will give the Canadian staff a chance to go straight into some of the areas they feel they need to address.

“We have to use the tournament for what it is. We have to go in and apply some things that we want to apply for the Olympic Games, we can’t go in and say we’re going to do what we’ve always done,” Priestman said. “We don’t have the time to wait around, we have to approach this tournament with an Olympic Games in mind.”

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