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John Laverty

It's us against The Terminator now... and at last the penny has dropped with Japan and the Olympic Committee

John Laverty


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Delusion on a large scale: former Japanese swimmer Imoto Naoko holds the Olympic torch during the Flame Handover Ceremony for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, last week

Delusion on a large scale: former Japanese swimmer Imoto Naoko holds the Olympic torch during the Flame Handover Ceremony for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, last week

AP

Delusion on a large scale: former Japanese swimmer Imoto Naoko holds the Olympic torch during the Flame Handover Ceremony for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, last week

It's the sports writers' equivalent of pushing your trolley forlornly down the bog roll aisle. What is wrong with these people? Well, if they're going to go out, at least they're going out with squeaky-clean bums and bellies full of Super Noodles.

There's plenty of bog roll for everyone (judging by the number of people doing keepy-uppies with it on social media) and there's sport too, Jim, though not as we know it.

It can't be easy for those guys though. A large percentage of sports writing involves predicting what's going to happen, and then explaining why it inevitably didn't.

Now it's reporting what's not going to happen and... er, that's it.

It's not such a challenge for columnists. We've always got nostalgia to keep us going, so let's dip into that pool of plenty and pull out... the 1999 Irish Cup final. Here's why...

The '90s were memorable in local football, what with the emergence of Portadown and Glenavon as power houses to match the traditional Big Two and the 'Dundalk Hawk' Dessie Gorman breaking the mould, for the better, at Linfield.

There were low points too, such as the botched 'promotion and relegation places aggregated over two seasons' idea which resulted in the fiasco of Bangor needing to deliberately LOSE their last game of the season in order to stay up.

It was also the decade of 'ineligible player' stories, with 'clerical errors' at administration level leading to fixture chaos, legal action and null and void games. And the big daddy of all of those was the cancellation of the 1999 showpiece just two days before Cliftonville were due to play Portadown at Windsor Park.

The Irish FA were on a cleft stick because it had emerged that, in their semi-final win over Linfield, Cliftonville had brought on a substitute, Simon Gribben, who had turned out for another team in the preliminary stages of the competition.

They couldn't bend their own rules just because it was the final, so the Reds were turfed out and Ports boss 'Big Ronnie' McFall was handed the gleaming trophy 'behind closed doors'.

Now, of course, we have the equivalent of the Irish Cup final cancellation on a global level, the 'ineligible player' having No.19 on his back.

Liverpool FC get most of the sporting sympathy; until this nightmare began to unfold, '19' was the only number on the minds of supporters who have waited 30 years since the club's 18th top-flight title.

Now that number is burned into everyone's psyche, for a more chilling and vastly different reason.

I do believe, however, that we've reached the point where fans' shock and disappointment has morphed into collective pragmatism.

If you still crave tribal competition, tune in to the human race versus a terminator who, just like its terrifying Hollywood counterpart, can't be bargained with, or reasoned with, and doesn't feel pity, or pain, or remorse.

At least The Terminator came from a world that was yet to exist, whereas we're currently living in one that's all too real. But what world have the International Olympic Committee/Japanese government been inhabiting?

With the planet in psychological, if not yet fully physical, lockdown, these fools retained the equivalent mindset of those who last week thought it was, like, a cool idea to organise, like, end-of-school parties on Northern Ireland beaches and stuff.

Those parties, however, were an off-the-cuff idea on social media, whereas the 2020 Olympics has been 10 years in the planning and £10.3bn in the spending, including the revolutionary, timber-built, £1.2bn stadium. Some 4.5m tickets have already been sold, with deals worth £2.58bn agreed with sponsors and broadcasters.

Ergo, Japan and the IOC were, until recently, still insisting that the Tokyo extravaganza can go ahead, as scheduled, on July 24.

But the dogs in the street - virtually the only creatures you can still see on the streets now - knew it wasn't gonna happen. This was delusion on a, dare I say it, epidemic scale; just because you hope something will take place doesn't mean it will.

The traditional torch-lighting ceremony took place in Greece earlier this month but that flame will now peter out into a damp squib, to be reignited next year.

USA Swimming and USA Track & Field, both huge conveyor belts of Olympic gold medallists, were the first to break ranks and call for a postponement of the Games, quickly followed by Norway and Brazil's Olympic committees.

And, from inside the tent, Japanese committee board member and former Olympic judo bronze medallist Kaori Yamaguchi said it wouldn't be right to run the Games "at this present time". You think?

Yesterday, Canada became the first country to withdraw from the Games if they weren't postponed.

But chief ostrich Thomas Bach, aka the IOC president, remained openly intransigent to that idea.

Last night, however, influential IOC member Dick Pound let the cat out of the bag by revealing that it has "already been decided" to postpone the Tokyo Games.

The 'Earth to IOC' message has finally got through.

Meanwhile, back on an Earth of intense social distancing, over-reacting, under-reacting, border closures, of empty streets and airports, unprecedented job cuts, plummeting stock markets, overwhelmed health services and wartime-like curfews - boxer Carl Frampton is realistic about the prospects of his WBO super-featherweight title fight with Jamel Herring actually going ahead in Belfast later this year.

The date - June 13 - was only confirmed a fortnight ago, and even then such an event seemed wildly optimistic.

"It's good to have this fight agreed, but there are more important things than boxing," the Tigers Bay native told this newspaper. "People's health is more important than me and Jamel Herring having a fight; it's important that we do this right."

See? Necessary pragmatism and common sense overcoming the natural, professional disappointment.

Well said, Carl.

Still, I suppose there's nothing wrong with having a little hope in your heart during these unprecedented, challenging times.

Remember, 'Hope' was the only thing left in the box after Pandora opened it, unleashing sickness and death on an unsuspecting world. Stay safe.

It’s the last refuge of the tabloid scoundrel... a Paul Pogba transfer ‘story’

More on the paucity of ‘real’ sports stories:  remarkably, there are still people in the world who seem to care what happens to Paul Pogba.

I don’t mean regarding the Frenchman’s wellbeing, obviously, rather his future in what was known in the old testament as ‘football’.

For instance The Sun, still enamoured with all things ‘Pog,’ informs us that that Man United player recently posted a video of himself training in a Juventus shirt with the name ‘Matuidi’ on the back. This led to another predictable recital about Pogba possibly returning to Juventus, who sold him to United for a world record fee, yadi-ya.

It’s more likely that the player was thinking of his good friend, former Juve team-mate and fellow World Cup winner Blaise Matuidi, who tested positive for coronavirus and is currently undergoing treatment for it.

But even before Covid-19 wormed its way into our lives, there was another persistant myth doing the rounds about Pogba in the tabloids; that United as a club, and United fans themselves, actually want to hold onto him.

Although United won’t admit it, Pogba these days is regarded as more of a liability than an asset.

And rather than ‘fight’ the likes of Juventus or Real Madrid in order to keep him, they’d happily offload the dressing room’s biggest malcontent in a heartbeat.

In the meantime, prepare yourselves for a blizzard of stories about Pogba’s “uncertain future” at Old Trafford, peppered with exclusive reports about him “shooting some hoops in Miami” and “dancing at his brother’s wedding.”

Just one more thing...

They say necessity is the mother of invention, so hats off to Elisha Nochomovitz, who ran a marathon on his seven-metre-long balcony. The Frenchman completed the 26.2 miles back and forth in seven hours, in a tribute to the medics... and to show it's possible to stay fit at home. Merci Elisha, an inspiration to us all.

Belfast Telegraph