In Colonia Sant Jordi, we are excited to be in the middle of two weeks of football camps with the Vicente Del Bosque Football Academy. 80 young players have been honing their skills with one of the biggest names in Spanish football.
It is a new venture set up by BEST Centre founder Matthew O’Connor as we broaden our sports offering away from the Olympic swimming pool and using the brand-new municipal football pitch in the town. The longer-term goal is to help the island become the number one sports destination for teams and active individuals and partnerships like this one are the way forward.
Meanwhile, I am in Tokyo commentating the swimming events for Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS), the host broadcasters, which is a Spanish company with its headquarters in Madrid.
The company has around 160 permanent staff, which swells to a whopping 8,500 for a Games where they build and manage an immense operation called the International Broadcast Centre. While this is a hive of activity, outside the nerve centre, you would barely know anything was going on at all.
This is my sixth Olympics and it is the only time I have been at a Games where there is absolutely nothing to announce the biggest sporting event on the planet.
Taking the bus from the downtown area to the Olympic venues you don’t see any of the usual ‘noise’ of a Games: there are no flags, T-shirts, tourists, banners and other paraphernalia that usually dresses a host city. Just a city going about its business while a global, multi-sports event takes places over there somewhere but it’s nothing to do with us folks. Like the Japanese wise monkeys, it is a case of Hear no Olympics, See no Olympics, Speak no Olympics.
Across Japan, the football and baseball stadiums are full and raucous, while in Tokyo the Olympic venues are empty. It is the strangest juxtaposition, especially when you walk into state-of-the-art 15,000 seat Tokyo Aquatics Centre, which will remain eerily silent. It is a heart-breaking sight.
The IOC are hoping that now the action is underway and the medals start rolling in, the mood in Japan and around the world will lift, that Covid cases will stabilise and fans will be allowed into stadiums in the second week.
The world will gaze in wonder at 13-year-oldskateboarders, 14-year-old swimmers and 66-year-old grandmothers on horseback.
There will be no Michael Phelps at an Olympics for the first time in 25 years, and there is no Usain Bolt to supercharge the Games. But for Britain there is Adam Peaty, perhaps the most dominant athlete in all sport at the moment.
The breaststroker has only lost one individual race (a 50m race, not his preferred 100m event) since 2014. He is the defending Olympic champion and has 8 world gold medals and a stunning 16 European gold medals. He owns 18 of the top 20 all time times in the 100m breaststroke and is over a second clear of his nearest rival. In short, it would be the biggest shock of the Games if he doesn’t strike another gold in the early hours of Monday morning.
In that final, Peaty is going for “Project Immortal”, the perfect race, setting a world record that will stand for a generation. His years of relentless training and physical conditioning are all for occasions like this.
“It makes you fight harder for those moments which define you. So the Olympics? I’m not letting this come past me because I’ve trained my arse off for this,” he said this week.
“He can cope with so much,” said his coach Mel Marshall.
“I’ve seen some incredible people, but he’s just relentless.”
Project 56 was all about setting the world record, which currently stands at 56.88 seconds from the world championships in 2019. Project Immortal is about taking all the best sections of all his swims and putting them together in the perfect race. That would take around half a second off his world record and assure his place among the swimming Gods.
He will also be paying close attention to the half a dozen athletes who came to Mallorca for their training camps earlier this year, including recent European medallists Barbora Seemenova, Marie Wattel and Louise Hansson. Australian open water swimmer Kai Edwards was based at the BEST Centre for two weeks after qualifying for Tokyo at the final qualifiers in Portugal in June.
Let the Games begin!