Olympic flame on display again, but Games uncertainty remains

Japan 2020

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A small, burnished lantern containing the bright Olympic flame sits on a table in a Tokyo museum, near the stadium where it was supposed to be burning for the world to see. Now, visitors must have a reservation to see it.

The flame was unveiled in a small ceremony Monday and went on display for the public at the Japan Olympic museum Tuesday, the Associated Press reports. Last week, athletes were back at the National Stadium for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic put a pause on the Games, with widespread effects for athletes and the host country. Those athletes competed in the Golden Grand Prix, a track and field event that featured only Japanese athletes this year instead of those from around the world.

Olympics organizers are still hoping the games will happen, but uncertainty amid the COVID-19 pandemic means specific plans for an influx of athletes are slim. The International Olympic Committee says if the Games can’t happen in 2021, they won’t be pushed off for another year.

The safety of holding athletic events depends on the sport, according to Dr. Stephen Thomas, the Infectious Disease division chief at the Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse, New York.

“If it’s a sport where individuals compete as individuals or if it’s a sport where you’re going to have lots of people in close contact for a prolonged period of time and not protected through the use of a mask,” Thomas said. “I also think it depends on whether or not there are going to be spectators involved.”

Thomas also said while vaccine trials are well underway, the next hurdle of getting people vaccinated is “just as important if not more important.”

“I still feel the same that I felt in January of 2020, that this is, you know, we are not going to have a large scale deployment of a vaccine in large scale uptake of the vaccine until at least the second quarter of calendar year 2021,” Thomas said.

That’s pushing up against the IOC’s current plan to host the Olympics starting July 23, 2021.

Balancing mental health and the Olympics

The COVID-19 pandemic has added stress to everyone’s lives, including athletes who are having to get creative to train for an event that may or may not happen.

But one thing athletes have also been discussing lately is the toll the Olympics, in general, can have on mental health.

The HBO documentary, “The Weight of Gold,” came out last month and showcased the stories of athletes from Michael Phelps to Lolo Jones and their struggles with mental health issues.

Christie Pearce Rampone also shared her own experience. She was a record-breaking soccer captain for Team USA and now works as a broadcast analyst, according to her website.

“It’s tough — that transition from going from such a high and being successful, winning gold medals and coming home and then that adrenaline is gone,” Pearce Rampone said.

She went through that transition four times, coming off a peak of winning three golds and one silver medal. She said she sought help from a sports psychologist who helped get her through low periods, “of how to enjoy the victory and figure out what’s next. Be in the moment.”

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