Sir Chris Hoy is hoping for a memorable Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
Olympic legend Sir Chris Hoy believes the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games will offer welcome relief as the Covid-19 pandemic eases – even without fans.
Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto revealed this week that a decision on international spectators and the capacity for each venue would be made by the end of March.
Six-time gold medal winner Sir Chris believes that competitors will make the most of representing their country whether or not the venues are full.
“If we get any competition at all that is a great success,” he said.
“In the last year the way all of our lives have been affected, if we could have the Olympic Games in some shape or form, that’s got to be a win, even if it means no crowds to support the athletes.
“If it can go ahead, it will be fantastic, even if there are no fans, athletes have to stay isolated in hotels, even if that whole experience is diluted a little bit, it’s better for it to take place in some shape or form than not at all.
“There’s no question it’s going to be the same experience without crowds but ultimately in the heat of the moment, they’ll just be focused on their own performance and just the opportunity to compete at the Olympic Games, because for a lot of athletes, this could be the one chance in their lifetime to represent their country at the Olympics or Paralympics.
Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto says a decision on whether fans will be able to attend the Olympic Games will be made by the end of March
“Because we have been so starved of sport for the last 12 months, anything you can watch or see and engage with you may have more of a connection with. So while they would love to be doing it in front of a crowd, any competition is better than nothing.”
For many looking to take part at the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the traditional build-up no longer exists, with regional and warm-up competitions pared back, but Sir Chris thinks that will pose no major problems.
“Having spoken to a few of the cyclists, they’re just committing 100 per cent as if it was going ahead and it was business as usual and that’s all you can do,” he said. “You can’t have even the slightest thought that it might not take place or that training might be for nothing or it’s a wasted effort. They won’t be thinking that.
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“In many ways people will be more appreciative of the Olympics and of sport in general. The relief it gives you, the breaking of routine when we’ve all been stuck in lockdown, sport has been that little escapism so I’m hoping the Olympics will be a great opportunity for people to lose themselves in sport, to celebrate and commiserate with the athletes when they win or lose and hopefully when we’re through all this, people will want to engage in sport themselves.”
Sir Chris had some of his greatest triumphs at London 2012 and admitted that he realises how fortunate he was to compete in front of his home crowds.
He recalled: “Even before the whole coronavirus situation started, you look back on your career and you are incredibly grateful because you realise that there are so many things that can happen, injuries, crashes, illness, loss of form that means you won’t get selected.
The outbreak of the coronavirus meant the Olympic Games were postponed last summer
“To be able to compete in front of a home crowd at a home Olympics, we were all very aware at the time how special 2012 was and how lucky we were as athletes to have that opportunity. You feel grateful.
“I went to four Olympic Games and I was so fortunate to go when many athletes don’t even get to go to one. But those who do get to go, even if it is just to one, they will make the most of their opportunity and it will still be special even if there isn’t anyone in the crowd to cheer them on.
“They’ll know that at home they’ve got their family and friends cheering the TV and all the fans willing them on and if we can have that competition and keeping that Olympic and Paralympic spirit going that has to be a great thing.”
There’s the prospect that Sir Chris will be overtaken as Britain’s most decorated Olympian and he suspects the Kennys could overtake him.
Jason Kenny has already equalled Sir Chris while his wife Laura Kenny is not far behind.
“The records are going to go at some point and if you are going to lose your record, you want to lose it to a friend and I think if it goes ahead, Jason will pass me because the team sprint have a very good chance of medalling,” said Sir Chris.
Sir Chris is predicting a successful Olympic Games for Jason and Laura Kenny
“But we could both be leapfrogged by his wife: I think Laura has a very good chance of winning three gold medals and overtaking both of us.
“In many ways, the delay in the Olympics will have helped her. Last year she had a really bad crash and she broke her collarbone right before the World Championships so she didn’t have the perfect run-in to what would have been the Olympic period.
“Laura is an ex-team-mate and a really good friend and I would be delighted if she produced the goods.”
Sir Chris was speaking as an Academy Member on behalf of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, who use sport to help disadvantaged young people around the world.
The glitzy annual Laureus World Sports Awards will not be taking place as usual this year, but there’s plenty of British interest with Lewis Hamilton looking to retain his Sportsman of the Year Award and Liverpool up for Team of the Year.
Sir Chris added: “The Laureus Awards are traditionally a big glitzy affair, every year the biggest names in sport come and it’s a huge honour to win.
“This year the physical Awards couldn’t take place, but we’re going to have a virtual Awards, and we still want to recognise all the great sporting achievements.
“It all started from Nelson Mandela’s amazing speech back in 2000 that “sport has the power to change the world” and I am sure we all agree with that. I’m sure it will also highlight the Sport for Good category where amazing things are happening to improve the lives of children through the power of sport and that’s at the heart of the Laureus Foundation.”
This year the Laureus Awards will not be presented at an open ceremony, but individually to winners due to the continuing global pandemic.
The winners will be announced in May as part of a ‘Virtual’ Awards event.