FORT WORTH, Texas — Amid the sights of the speeding traffic on Interstate 20, and the smells of horse and cow poop, a small spot in Fort Worth became an Olympic training epicenter for the past year.
The Athletic Performance Ranch in west Fort Worth, not too far from Aledo, on what essentially amounts to farm land, features top tier facilities that attract college basketball teams, at-risk youths, and some of the best track athletes in the world.
Athletic Performance Ranch (APR) director Greg Sholars said 15 American Olympians trained at the center, and at least six others who will represent different countries.
The list includes U.S. runners Ronnie Baker, Allyson Felix, Michael Norman, Michael Cherry, Keni Harrison, and several others.
At a qualifying event, in front of what felt like about 50 people, in May, all of the participants agreed they wanted the Olympics to proceed.
“It should go on,” USA women’s hurdler Dalilah Muhammad told me. “I don’t see why not. They figured out how to do it for all of the other sports.”
Gianna Woodruff, who will run for Panama, said, “They made it work for the NBA Finals.”
The opening ceremony for the 2020 Summer Olympics (in 2021) are set for Friday night, and what is coming will be a made-for-NBC audiences reality TV show disaster.
This will be the worst Olympics, and the most memorable.
We all thought by now the worst of our COVID-19 routine was behind us, but the 2020 Summer Olympics is a football field sized Post-it Note to the world that we ain’t done yet.
The host city of Tokyo is currently under a COVID-19 state of emergency, and positive cases are surging all over Japan. This is the fourth state of emergency the country has had in the last 16 months.
The nation “boasts” a COVID-19 vaccination rate of about 20%, which ranks 61st in the world — not quite good enough for the bronze.
Only residents of Japan were originally going to be allowed in to watch the events, but now even that plan has been scrapped. The Games will not have spectators.
Family members and friends of the athletes who planned to travel and watch in person can’t come, either.
“I don’t want to sound negative about this at all, but it seems like they had more than enough time to get a large portion of the population vaccinated,” Sholars said. “I think that it’s going to be a terrible disadvantage to the athletes to have to perform, and run, in silence.
“I know that they will endure, just as we’ve seen with the other sports.”
Typically a “failed test” when it comes to the Olympics is associated with the athlete who is caught taking the latest performance-enhancing drug.
Now a failed test will more likely mean a flunked COVID-19 exam, which could potentially result in the athlete missing their event, or the entire Games.
At least according to one NBC Sports TV staffer, the people who are going over to work the event said upon landing in Japan, “Once we got off the plane, we were herded like cattle through 10 different stations that made us eligible for entry into Japan.
“Here’s the kicker: We’re all relying on each other to test negative because if one person tests positive, that entire group's ‘soft quarantine’ becomes real quarantine which means total isolation.”
We are not talking about a basketball player missing another game in a long line of them. These are Olympic athletes whose careers revolve around an event that happens once every four (or five) years.
Event organizers basically are turning the Olympics into a TV studio. The athletes have been told to arrive shortly before their event. Don’t plan to go out and see the sights at all. Play your games. Leave.
The NBC staffer told me, “I don’t know who the brains is behind this one, but it has super-spreader written all over it.
“You cannot use public transport — trains, buses or regular taxis. And they are very strict about time spent outdoors. During soft quarantine, there is no walking for pleasure or exercising outside. In fact, you are only allowed 15 minutes in the fresh air a couple times a day. One of the requirements of entering Japan was having the location tracking switched on in your phone for Google maps. If you abuse your 15-minute privilege, the police will find you. This is no joke. Your visa could be revoked, no matter what your status.”
They went so far as to install “anti-sex” beds in the Olympic village. The beds are made out of cardboard and designed to support the weight of a single person.
The Games have not even started and we are already seeing a line of athletes testing positive for COVID-19.
USA Basketball said forward Zach LaVine will not travel with the team to Japan because he is under health and safety protocol measures. There is a chance he will be able to join the team.
USA Gymnastics said one of the alternates on the women’s team has tested positive for COVID-19.
Athletes from other parts of the world have tested positive for COVID-19, and they are already in the Olympic village.
These people have trained for five years instead of four, and their already tight window to get their Olympic moment is closing so the risk is worth it for them.
That, and money, are why the Summer Olympics are proceeding.
It will be memorable, and a mess.