July 23, 2021

After a year’s delay because of COVID-19, the Tokyo Olympic Games kick off in earnest today with the opening ceremony. And now we all hold our breath.

Even as the games are just starting, there are concerns they won’t be completed because of COVID-19.

According to the Associated Press’ Mari Yamaguchi, Tokyo reported 1,979 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday — the highest number in six months.

Yamaguchi writes, “Japan has reported about 853,000 cases and 15,100 deaths since the pandemic began, most of them this year. Still, the number of cases and deaths as a share of the population are much lower than in many other countries.”

The recent sharp increase in COVID-19 numbers has many on edge and questioning if the games should be held. Yamaguchi reports Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s public support ratings have dropped to 30% in recent weeks.

So far, the games will go on, but they will be without spectators for the most part. And without some athletes, too. Two Czech volleyball players are among the latest to be ruled out because they tested positive for COVID-19. So far, it’s believed at least 70 athletes, officials and other workers involved in the Olympics have tested positive this month. At least four American Olympians have had to drop out because of COVID-19, including tennis star Coco Gauff.

Earlier this week, The Washington Post’s Simon Denyer and Adam Kilgore wrote, “While critics have grown louder just days before the Opening Ceremonies, forces more powerful than skepticism — ranging from the financial to the legal to the political — continue to propel the Games inexorably forward.”

And so it appears the stance is … let the games begin.

As a viewer and fan of the Olympics, I have a gut feeling that watching events without fans will give it a weird vibe — just like we saw last year in this country when many of our sporting events, such as the NFL and NBA, were televised with no or very few fans in the stands.

But NBC will plow forward as if it’s business as usual.

It’s behind a paywall, but The Athletic’s Richard Deitsch has a superb viewers’ guide to the Olympics.

Deitsch notes that NBCUniversal will have 7,000 hours of coverage across two broadcast networks, six cable networks and many digital platforms for both English- and Spanish-language viewers. (Here is the official NBC schedule page.)

Tonight begins 17 consecutive nights of coverage on NBC. Meanwhile, USA Network will carry the Olympics pretty much around the clock for the next two weeks. Games can also be found at various times on NBCSN, CNBC, The Golf Channel and the Olympic Channel. For Spanish-language viewers, Telemundo Deportes has the U.S. rights and will air more than 300 hours of Games on Telemundo and Universo.

Here are some other good pieces to get you ready for the Olympics:

Today’s USA Today

Here’s the front page of today’s USA Today ….

(Courtesy: USA Today)

In her column, USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan writes, “These are an Olympics cloaked in fear, as if around every corner, more bad news awaits. It seems that anything that could go wrong might go wrong. The constant drumbeat of positive coronavirus tests from the Olympic Village is a striking example. Getting through the next 17 days unscathed seems as if it will take some sort of sports miracle.”

Post reporter files suit

A Washington Post reporter is suing the Post and some of its senior leaders, including former top editor Marty Baron, alleging she was discriminated against. Felicia Sonmez said that after going public that she was a sexual assault survivor, the Post barred her from covering stories about sexual assault.

Besides Baron, who retired earlier this year, the suit also names current Post editors Cameron Barr, Tracy Grant, Steve Ginsberg, Lori Montgomery and Peter Wallsten.

The Post banned Sonmez from covering Christine Blasey Ford’s sexual misconduct allegations against eventual Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh because Sonmez had previously gone public that she had been sexually assaulted.

Then in January 2020, immediately following the death of former basketball star Kobe Bryant, Sonmez was suspended by the Post after she tweeted a link to a news story about Bryant once being accused of sexual assault. In the lawsuit, she said the Post did not provide her security after she received death and rape threats. Her suspension by the Post was later overturned. This year, the ban keeping her from writing about sexual assault and #MeToo stories also was lifted.

But Sonmez claimed she already had suffered.

Sonmez’s suit said she had suffered “economic loss, humiliation, embarrassment, mental and emotional distress, and the deprivation of her rights to equal employment opportunities. … At various times, Ms. Sonmez became severely depressed, developed intense anxiety and received treatment from therapists and psychiatrists who she continues to see today.”

In a statement to CNN’s Oliver Darcy, Sonmez said she believed “survivors of trauma, including sexual assault, deserve the full support of their newsrooms. … They should never have to fear that they will be punished, silenced or barred from doing their jobs because of what was done to them.”

The Post has yet to comment.

YouTube removes Brazil’s president

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro. (AP Photo/Nelson Antoine)

YouTube has removed videos from Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil because they contained misinformation about COVID-19.

The New York Times’ Adam Satariano writes, “YouTube, which played an important role in Mr. Bolsonaro’s rise to power and says it is more widely watched in Brazil than all but one television channel, said in a statement that the president had violated the company’s policies about vaccine misinformation, including the promotion of unproven cures.”

In a statement, YouTube said, “Our policies don’t allow content that claims hydroxychloroquine and/or Ivermectin are effective to treat or prevent Covid-19, claims that there is a guaranteed cure for Covid-19, and claims that masks don’t work to prevent the spread of the virus. This is in line with the guidance of local and global health authorities, and we update our policies as guidance changes.”

Satariano adds, “Criticized at home and abroad for his response to the coronavirus pandemic, Brazil has suffered some of the worst effects of the pandemic. While more than 545,000 people have died from the disease, Mr. Bolsonaro has continued to play down its significance, ridiculing people for wearing masks and declaring he did not plan to get a vaccine.”

Media tidbits

  • My Poynter colleague Rick Edmonds reports: The Times-Picayune and The Advocate of New Orleans has received a $1 million grant from the Ford Foundation to double the size of its investigative unit. It is the largest gift yet in a partnership of the Local Media Association and Google News Initiative, started last fall, to help local news organizations land philanthropic support. Here are the details.
  • Washington Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker — authors of the just-released book “I Alone Can Fix It,” about Donald Trump’s final year as president — will be on the panel of tonight’s “Washington Week” (8 p.m. on most PBS stations). Also joining moderator Yamiche Alcindor will be Eva McKend of Spectrum News  and Yasmeen Abutaleb of The Washington Post.
  • Speaking of the book from Leonnig and Rucker, here’s audio from an interview they did with Trump when he talked about the “loving crowd” he spoke to in Washington on Jan. 6.
  • New York Times sports columnist Kurt Streeter tweets why he’s not at the Olympics.
  • ESPN has signed “SportsCenter” anchors Neil Everett and Ashley Brewer to new contracts. Everett, who is part of ESPN’s Los Angeles “SportsCenter,” has been with ESPN since 2000. Brewer joined ESPN last August.
  • The Washington Post’s “Post Reports” podcast has a must-listen two-part series called “Marooned in Matamoros.” In it, immigration reporter Arelis R. Hernández looks at the real-world impact of the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy by looking at the story of an El Salvadoran woman named Nancy. It’s a harrowing story.

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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