What Donovan Bailey thinks will be missing from the pandemic Olympics

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TORONTO —
World record-breaking sprinter and two-time Olympic champion Donovan Bailey saus not even COVID-19 will distract athletes competing in Tokyo, which has seen outbreaks of the novel coronavirus mere days before the 2021 Summer Olympics begin.

“Anyone who’s actually been at the highest level in sport understands that you live every single hour of every single day on your event only,” Bailey told CTV’s Your Morning on Thursday. “So I think the athletes are going to be OK, I just think it’s terrible that fans aren’t going to be allowed [in].”

“Parents can’t be [there]. That support system — that allows athletes to get the very best of themselves — isn’t going to be allowed,” he said, noting hometown fans for any sport typically help boost the spirit of the athletes. But that won’t be the case this year: “You’re going to imagine the fans are there… cheering for you.”

There are quite a few changes for these Olympics, including spectators being unable to be in the stadiums to share in the triumphs of the athletes. But athletes will be also putting their medals around their own necks to protect against spreading the coronavirus.

“I believe not having fans and not having that live electricity in the stadium, and on the field, or in the pool, it’s definitely going to do some disservice to the athletes,” said Bailey, the host of the new lifestyle and pop culture podcast, “Running things with Donovan Bailey,” where he’ll be sharing more of his thoughts on a host of different topics.

“You know, 25 years ago, long before LeBron [James] was told ‘shut up and dribble,’ a lot of people wanted me to ‘shut up and run,’” he said, noting he’ll be doing the exact opposite with his new weekly show, which will touch on issues such as Black Lives Matter movement, the psychological and sociological effects of social media, the politics of sport, and racism.

Recently, Canadian athletes of colour and sports historians have been joining the chorus of people calling out the vitriolic racism Black English soccer players received during Euro 2020, with some explaining how many Black and Indigenous athletes are constantly fearing they’ll suffer the same fate if they slip up.

“It’s absolutely despicable what happened in the Euro Cup… and when you’re Black and brown, there’s always been that added pressure,” Bailey said, noting that he was grateful his Jamaican parents never sugarcoated how bigoted people could be, so he wasn’t caught off guard by the racism he faced in Canada and beyond.

“I understand passionate fans. I’m a passionate fan. I understand losing might hurt but I cannot understand when it becomes a personal attack on what you look like or where you’re from,” he said.

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