It will be an Olympics like no other. Tokyo 2020, deferred a year due to the coronavirus outbreak, will officially get underway on Friday (July 23) with the Opening Ceremony.
Athletes will be tested like never before with strict coronavirus measures, a major heatwave and no crowds some of the unique challenges they will face.
Leading up to and during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, University of Southern Queensland experts can discuss their areas of expertise and issues relating to the Games.
To arrange an interview with any of the following experts, contact the University of Southern Queensland communications team on +61 7 4631 1163.
A WHOLE NEW GAMES: THE PRESSURE ON ATHLETES WITH NO CROWDS
No fans in the stands could be a major hurdle for some athletes competing in Tokyo, especially those who thrive off the energy of spectators. How will it affect them? Will they need to prepare differently?
• Associate Professor Stephen Bird is a leading international performance scientist with a particular interest in elite athlete preparation, strength and conditioning and nutritional supplementation. He has worked at the elite level across numerous sports and attended many major sporting events, including two Olympic Games.
CONCERNS FOR ATHLETES’ MENTAL HEALTH
Keeping athletes and officials safe during the pandemic-affected Games will be one of the greatest challenges Tokyo Olympic organisers face. But strict coronavirus rules aimed at reducing the spread of the virus means athletes will not be allowed to leave the Olympic Village except to train and compete, and human interaction is discouraged. In addition, competitors aren’t allowed to bring family members with them to the Games.
• Steven Christensen is a psychologist, who specialises in working with athletes. He has previously spoken at international conferences about the impact of COVID-19 public health measures on the motivations and emotions of elite athletes.
SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST – HOW ATHLETES WILL HANDLE THE HEAT
The Tokyo Olympics is forecast to be the hottest Olympic Games on record with athletes to face 30-plus degree days and oppressive humidity. What effect will it have on athletes’ performance? What can they do to beat the heat?
• Dr Dean Mills is an exercise physiologist who specialises in respiratory function. His research examines limitations to exercise performance in athletic, healthy and clinical populations.
HEAT IS ON FEMALE ATHLETES
Australia will send a record number of female athletes to the Tokyo Olympics, but a heat wave currently gripping Japan could add an extra challenge for female athletes who experience cyclic changes in core body temperature across their menstrual cycle.
• Dr Brianna Larsen researches high-performing female athletes with a particular focus on the effect of the menstrual cycle and hormonal contraceptives on body temperature and performance in the heat.
ATHLETES MOST AT RISK OF SUNBURN
Mid-summer conditions in Japan could pose a serious risk of sunburn to athletes, especially those who often compete for long periods in the hottest parts of the day. Could the International Olympic Committee do more to protect athletes from UV exposure? What measures could help reduce sun cancer risk?
• Dr Nathan Downs is a Senior Lecturer in Mathematics and has conducted research on solar UV radiation. He led a study in 2019 that predicted which athletes would receive the highest amount of solar UV radiation at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. Despite the Games being postponed, Dr Downs said many of the findings would still hold true at this year’s Games.
TRANSGENDER AND INTERSEX WOMEN NAVIGATING THE OLYMPICS
For the first time, a transgender athlete will compete in the summer Olympics after 43-year-old Laurel Hubbard – who transitioned from male to female in 2013 – was selected to New Zealand women's weightlifting team for Tokyo. Similarly, Nigerian cisgender sprinters Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi, both born with intersex variations, have been excluded by World Athletics from particular track events at the Olympics due to their naturally occurring ‘high’ testosterone levels.
• Dr Annette Brömdal’s research interests are in the areas of bodies, gender, and sexuality in elite sports. She has a great understanding of the International Olympic Committee’s eligibility guidelines for transgender athletes, including World Athletics’ eligibility regulations for athletes born with particular intersex variations in particular restricted events at international competitions.
DOES THE OLYMPICS MAKE US MORE SEDENTARY?
Major sporting events like the Olympics are usually regarded as significant opportunities to boost sport and physical activity participation, but research suggests the increase in participation is only short-lived. In fact, the Olympics could have a negative impact on health with people expected to spend longer periods in front of screens during the Games.
• Associate Professor Tracy Kolbe-Alexander is an expert on physical activity and public health, and serves on both Australian and international health boards, with the aim of promoting physical activity to improve health and well-being.
HOW BIOMECHANICS IS USED IN SPORTS
In simple terms, biomechanics examines and explains why and how the human body moves like it does. It can be applied to a wide variety of sporting activities and is critical in improving athletic performance, preventing injury and speeding up recovery.
• Dr Ben Hoffman is a biomechanics lecturer and researcher with a particular interest in using ultrasonography to examine muscle and tendon mechanics during movement and in response to exercise-induced muscle damage.
HOW BROADCASTERS CAN ADD ATMOSPHERE TO CROWDLESS COVERAGE
Empty stadiums at the Tokyo Olympics will present many challenges to television and radio broadcasters which are exploring different options to create a sense of atmosphere for the millions of viewers tuning in from across the world.
• Dr Ashley Jones is a Senior Lecturer in Television and Radio Broadcast and has worked for more than 35 years of experience in the media and communication industry, included producing, directing and writing for visual productions.
FORTY YEARS SINCE CHARIOTS OF FIRE
Chariots of Fire tells the story of British sprinters Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams who ran to glory at the Paris 1924 Games. The movie won four Oscars in 1981, including best picture, and is considered one of the greatest sports films ever made.
• Dr Daryl Sparkes is a Senior Lecturer in film production and has written, directed and produced many documentaries and television shows. He is also a regular contributor to The Conversation and can be heard weekly on ABC radio stations across Queensland.
The Tokyo Olympics are set to begin on July 23.