All eyes on Malaysian athletes in Tokyo to deliver welcome respite from Covid-19 blues

I am a lucky person. Not only did I get to spend nearly a month in the beautiful city of Rio de Janeiro five years ago, everything was paid for.

But, it was no holiday as I was there to cover the 2016 Olympic Games, and that meant working round the clock – figuratively and literally – as Rio is 11 hours behind Malaysia.

I was with a newspaper then, and besides sending articles for print, and sometimes the online version, there was also a digital afternoon E-paper.

For instance, in the men’s badminton singles final between Datuk Lee Chong Wei and Chen Long, I sent an article, seconds after the winning point, for the online version.

Then, it was off to courtside for a heart-breaking interview with Lee, to get quotes so I could rewrite the copy for the print edition with the deadline fast looming (the final was played in the morning, Rio time, nearly midnight in Malaysia).

After that, it was a long wait for the press conference, where I had to do a third version for the afternoon E-paper, with additional facts and quotes, and other side stories.

Not every day was hectic, but juggling and rewriting stories, or adding on new ones for different editions every single day, was tiring.

More so since my Airbnb was 90 minutes (when there were no traffic jams) from the Main Press Centre (MPC) and most venues – except for archery, which was near the apartment.

I was also lucky to have a personal ‘chauffeur’ in Marco Aurello Pires Ambrosio, an Uber driver introduced by reporters from Utusan Malaysia and Kosmo, who had booked him when they arrived at the airport.

As they had rooms in an official hotel, they had only a short commute to the MPC and didn’t need him.

So, at 7am each day, Ambrosio would drive me to the MPC and then pick me up between 11pm and 1am to send me ‘home’.

There were times he drove me to, or from, the venues. One such instance was to the Joao Havelange Olympic Stadium to cover Nauraj Singh in the high jump event.

Coincidentally, that was the day of the 100m final, so I got to watch Usain Bolt win his third straight gold medal in the event.

In 2016, we only had to worry about the less deadly Zika virus. We also had to get a yellow fever shot before entering Brazil.

The good thing was, we could go sightseeing when the Games were over.

But the Tokyo Games are going to be different, no thanks to Covid-19.

Photographer Kamarul Akhir shared how Covid-19 restrictions would make covering the Olympics harder than usual.

Not only does he have to plan his trips if he takes the shuttle services, if he wants to hire a driver, he must also get prior approval and have tested negative for Covid-19.

He was thinking of hiring one until he heard it could cost as much as US$1,000 a day!

The pressure on the athletes this time around is different. There would be no spectators in the stadium, and the Games Village, which usually is a hive of activity, has been infiltrated by the coronavirus.

The organising committee chief executive officer, Toshiro Muto, even warned the Games could be called off if the number of cases continues to rise!

Malaysia is targeting three medals in Tokyo with one, hopefully, gold.

We have 30 athletes competing in Tokyo. Datuk Azizulhasni Awang is a strong contender in cycling, while Pandelela Rinong Pamg and her fellow divers stand a chance of an upset.

In badminton, Lee Zii Jia has a tough task against defending champion Chen Long in the second round but hopes to carry on the sport’s tradition of winning a medal.

For the record, at the last Games, badminton contributed three silver medals – Chong Wei, Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying (mixed doubles) and Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong (men’s doubles).

Diving had one silver from Pandelela-Cheong Jun Hoong in the women’s 10m synchronised platform. Azizulhasni won bronze in the keirin event.

Given how badly Covid-19 has impacted everyone, any medal would be welcomed, especially for those of us stuck at home.

Demi Malaysia.

ONE MILLION CASES COMING UP

Sad, but true. We are likely to hit the one million mark early next week after reaching 980,491 Covid-19 infections yesterday.

That includes five-digit increases every day of the week, making it 11 consecutive days that this has happened. That included a single-day high of 15,573 yesterday.

More worryingly, there have been 990 deaths in the past week, taking the total to 7,718. That included 199 on Wednesday, which was the single-day record for fatalities.

The good news is that another 52,845 patients have been given the all-clear in the last seven days, including a record of 10,094 yesterday. That means 825,387 or 84.18 per cent were cured of the coronavirus.

Separately, the government may allow fully vaccinated people to cross state lines to meet loved ones, while Langkawi and Kuching were selected as Covid-free destinations.

Schools are to reopen in September, with the government struggling to ensure all teachers are vaccinated by then.

Worldwide, there are 193.6 million cases with 4.15 million deaths.

VALUABLE INFORMATION AT NEWLY LAUNCHED PKRC 2.0 MAEPS WEBSITE

The Covid-19 Integrated Quarantine and Treatment Centre (PKRC) 2.0 at the Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang (Maeps) launched its website yesterday.

National Disaster Management Agency director-general, Datuk Aminuddin Hassim, said the website was developed by MyNic Berhad, an agency under Communications and Multimedia Ministry.

It is a one-stop centre for standard operating procedures, frequently asked questions, do’s and don’ts, and to get updates about the centre.

Well done.

10 GREATEST OLYMPIC MOMENTS

By no means the definitive top 10, this article has some memorable moments. Relive Nadia Comaneci’s perfect score, Usain Bolt’s greatness and several controversial instances. Enjoy.

PHYSICAL DISTANCING IN 2021

I’LL DRINK TO THAT

While in Rio, I developed a taste for the country’s national drink, caipirinha. Usually, with lime, I tried other flavours, such as passion fruit, and strawberry. Here is a recipe to try. Cheers.

THE GIRL FROM IPANEMA

Astrud Gilberto makes her second appearance in this column with the song that made her famous – The Girl From Ipanema.

Those with long memories would remember her song Maria Quiet, which was used to poke fun at the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry on April 1, 2020.

Until next week, stay safe, folks.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sVdaFQhS86E