The 613-member United States Olympic team is second only in number to the 648 who competed in Atlanta in 1996, when the hosts had automatic entries in all team sports, and 55 more than were in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
Nearly 200 of the athletes are five-ringed veterans, half of them medalists. Equestrian rider Phillip Dutton will be competing in his seventh Games at 57 — he won two golds in team eventing for Australia before becoming an American citizen, and he earned an individual bronze last time.
Six members will be participating in their fifth Olympics and 15 in their fourth. For the third consecutive Games there are more women (329) on the roster than men (284).
The International Olympic Committee’s new way of electing host cities — by acclamation — makes its debut on Wednesday at its Tokyo session when the full membership is expected to rubber-stamp the executive board’s choice of Brisbane as the site of the 2032 Summer Games.
The Queensland capital’s bid, with more than 80 percent of the venues existing or temporary, was “irresistible,” said IOC president Thomas Bach, who observed that the bid “checked all the boxes.”
Brisbane essentially was handpicked by the IOC last winter from a field of interested cities that included Germany’s Rhine-Ruhr area, Doha (Qatar), Jakarta (Indonesia), and Ahmedabad (India).
The selection process had become practically uncompetitive anyway. Paris and Los Angeles were the only two contenders for 2024 once Rome, Budapest, and Hamburg dropped out of the race. So the IOC simply chose those two cities for 2024 and ’28 and adopted its new model of identifying a “preferred” city after continuous dialogue with candidates.
For the first time in Games history athletes will drape their medals around their own necks on the award stand.
That’s part of the COVID-cautious celebration protocol where vaccinated IOC members wearing disinfected gloves will hold out a tray for a do-it-yourself presentation that will discourage handshakes and hugs on the podium.
Fewer than 1,000 spectators, all of them foreign dignitaries and other VIPs, will be inside the 68,000-seat stadium for Friday’s opening ceremonies. The organizers plan to fill the applause void with an immersive audio system that will pipe in crowd noise from previous Games.
The ban on spectators isn’t limited to the Tokyo venues. Yokohama (baseball, softball, and soccer), Fukushima (baseball and softball), Sapporo (soccer), and Saitama (basketball), among other cities, also will stage closed-door events.
While the debate about whether marijuana should be a banned Olympic drug continues, the US Anti-Doping Agency is recommending that a different test — blood or oral fluids — be used instead of a urine sample so that recreational users such as sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson “are not caught and punished by the system.”
Since marijuana testing is only done on the day of competition, unlike other performance-enhancing drugs, traces of earlier use should be irrelevant. The irony in the case of Richardson, who’ll miss the Games after being disqualified in the 100 and not selected for the relay, is that the US, according to the world doping agency, consistently has wanted cannabis kept on the banned list.
No longer a sure thing
The day when the US men’s and women’s basketball teams can put a dozen stars on the court and count on winning Olympic gold is past.
Their exhibition losses in Las Vegas — the men to Nigeria and Australia, the women to the WNBA All-Stars and the Aussies — were a preview of the challenges that they’ll face in Tokyo where the women are gunning for their record seventh straight title and the men their fourth.
“It’s never as simple as throwing 12 of the best out there and it just clicks,” said guard Sue Bird, a four-time champion. “That’s never been the case.”
History shows, though, that the Americans eventually get it together at the Games.
The men never have failed to win a medal in 18 appearances since the sport was added to the program in 1936.
Their record is 15 golds, one silver (the disputed 1972 loss to the Soviet Union) and two bronzes — 1988 (the last time the US sent an amateur squad) and 2004 (after losing to Argentina in the quarters).
Their Tokyo draw is favorable to the Americans — France (sixth at the last two Games), Iran (which last qualified in 2008), and the Czech Republic, which last participated in 1980 (as Czechoslovakia).
The women also never have missed the podium and haven’t lost a game since the Unified Team (the remnants of the former USSR) beat them in the 1992 semifinals.
The Americans will face France (fourth in 2016), Japan (eighth) and Nigeria, which last qualified in 2004.
Strength in numbers
The US boxing team got another windfall when featherweight Yarisel Ramirez was given an Olympic women’s spot after candidates from Costa Rica and Argentina turned it down. The Americans, who earlier received three additional men’s entries based on global rankings, now will have a total of 10, two more than they had in 2016. The women, who had only two competitors in Rio, are the only country with a full five. “This is the team I thought I was going to have a couple of years ago,” observed coach Billy Walsh … Competing in his seventh Games at 45 will be Norwegian rower Olaf Tufte, the two-time singles champion who also has made the podium twice in the double. Tufte, a farmer and firefighter who made his Olympic debut in 1996 in the four, will be racing in the quad this time. New Zealand’s Mahe Drysdale, who’d won the last two men’s singles titles, was bypassed for Jordan Parry. A back injury that cost Drysdale five months of training didn’t help, nor did Rowing NZ’s decision not to send a quad to this spring’s last-chance qualifying regatta in Switzerland. “It has been one hell of a ride,” said Drysdale, who has retired at 42. “While you always dream of ending it with a fairy tale, time has beaten me on this occasion.”
John Powers can be reached at email@example.com. Material from Olympic committees, sports federations, interviews, and wire services was used in this report.