The controversy over Tokyo’s 2021 Olympic Games

By: Caroline Crosby

Japan was primed and ready to host the 2020 summer Olympics last year. They received the usual mass of international funding and built the “Japan National Stadium” in late 2019, at the expense of a mere $1.4 billion USD. Hotels and other widespread private tourist organizations were frantic with the construction of new establishments to host the influx of overseas visitors. Tokyo was looking forward to hitting the reset button on a global stage after years of economic stagnation following the devastating loss of life and property that it endured after being struck by the Tohoku earthquake, a tidal wave, the Fukushima nuclear disaster, and finally a global pandemic. 

They were ready for most of the usual contingencies, but not for what 2020 had in store with the rampant outbreak of COVID-19. As such, the 2020 games were optimistically postponed to the summer of this year. They will be held in Tokyo, from July 23 to August 8. The Paralympics will start shortly after, lasting from August 24 to September 5.

Over the past year and a half since the emergence of the pandemic, The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has forged ahead selling event tickets to fans, finalizing COVID-19 precautions, and preparing to welcome hundreds of thousands of international travelers to attend this year’s games. 

What could go wrong?

A recent survey, of Japan’s willing residents, asked if they approved of the country hosting 2021’s event at all. 83% believed that it should be canceled. The numbers speak for themselves, and many residents agree that Tokyo hosting this event will endanger community immunity and deplete already scarce medical resources stretched thin by the recent surge of COVID-19 cases. Only about 2% of Japan’s population is vaccinated. 

Japan’s government has heavily relied on adherence to strong social distancing measures. In this densely populated country, these measures will be further strained by an influx of tourists from around the world, all of whom will be meeting up at sporting and entertainment venues across Tokyo and its countryside. 

Even though overseas attendees got the boot, the Olympics will still instigate mass migration and raise the risk of the pandemic’s spread. Others are concerned that Tokyo doesn’t have space in the first place – with an estimated population of 37,339,804 residents at roughly 16,121.8 people per square mile, according to the latest revision of the UN World Urbanization Prospects. 

A groundswell of residents in the event’s surrounding areas has begun sounding the alarm and protests have gained momentum. A Change.org petition recently gained traction with over 400,000 signatures calling for the cancelation of the 2021 games. 10,000 of the 80,000 local volunteers quit amidst growing concern over unsatisfactory COVID-19 precautions.

The International Olympic Committee (I.O.C.) issued guidelines that were supposed to have the consultation of the World Health Organization, but seem to lack sufficient detail and focus on out-of-date science. Many critics argue that the games should be canceled entirely to keep the Japanese public safe. The Change.org petition creator, Kenji Utsunomiya explains, “Turning to the Olympics the medical resources that are facing a serious shortage even in the [present], further tormented […] healthcare professionals who are battered by corona epidemic, endangering the life and livelihood of the residents and participants in particular.”

Additionally, the sudden cancellation of event admission for international fans has not gone over well. Many have devoted funds to and planned their attendance for over 2 years now. Ticket holders now search for refunds. Many are unclear on when, if ever, their money will be returned.

Self-dubbed superfan, Everen Brown, told the New York Times: “Since we are being barred, it is only right for them to make everyone whole and refund all of the money paid…It would be real painful watching this at home on TV and knowing they have the money, and not knowing when you’re going to get it back.”

Monica Treece told the Salt Lake Tribune: “At this point they’ve held our funds for two years already, and I’m concerned it’s going to take months more to get them back again…everyone is still in the dark. We’re just waiting.” 

Personal economic status isn’t the only pressing concern here. There are widely shared fears that Japan will fare worse than other past host countries. The most recent estimate, from February of this year, dictates that while the IOC’s bid committee originally projected in 2020 that the games would cost around $12.6 billion USD, Japan’s National Audit Board assessed that the final price would jump to over $22 billion USD with approximately 75% derived from public funding.

Let’s hope that Japan escapes Greece’s previous Olympic-catalyzed fate, whose 2004 Athens games, and resulting economic loss of hundreds of billions of dollars in debt, played a major part in literally bankrupting the country. 

Almost all facilities built for Greece’s 2-month event are now derelict. The Wall Street Journal estimates that the cost of canceling the IOC’s plans, and cutting Japan’s losses now, would result in a loss of $17 billion USD. This is a steep price, but the cost of a post-Olympic emergency would be far greater both economically, and in terms of human life.

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The NBA playoffs and how different they are this year

Image taken from: NBA playoffs and how different they are this year

By: Charlie Fragassi

If you have tuned into the NBA playoffs at all this year, you’ll see an entirely different look then last year. Last year, COVID-19 stopped the season for a little while and the top teams were forced to play the playoffs in an NBA bubble, in Disney World, in Florida.

This year, the NBA had few COVID complications except that they started the season later, but they were able to finish the regular season normally and go into the playoffs.

This year’s playoffs have been really fun because they had a play in tournament for the bottom seeds, to see who made it into the playoffs, and who didn’t. This is a new feature that was different from last year.

Teams were also able to travel to each other’s stadiums for games and pretty much all NBA teams had some sort of fan capacity so there are fans at all the games, which is good for the players, team, and the fans.

Last year was a pretty crazy year for the NBA, but it’s good to see things get back under control and for them to have a somewhat normal playoff, and hopefully they have no COVID complications.

Some NBA fans even say that last year’s NBA finals winners, the Los Angles Lakers, win shouldn’t even count due to the fact that the season was cut short and the teams played in a bubble. But overall, it doesn’t matter where you play, the winners are going to win and it’ll stay that way forever.

The end of J. Cole’s basketball career

By: Alexandra Rimbu

Rap star, J. Cole, has ended his short-lived pro basketball career in light of a “family obligation”.

During his time with Rwanda Patriots BBC, of the Basketball Africa League, he scored 5 points, grabbed 5 rebounds, and tallied 3 assists in 45 minutes, in three appearances – an extremely sub-par performance. This has prompted many to mock Cole’s career. Others, however, are more focused on the fact that his career should never have begun.

As Cole has previously expressed, his two dreams in life were to pursue music and basketball. Cole focused more on music however, and he is now a mainstream rap star.

Basketball has always remained as one of his hobbies though, and it is for this particular reason that many argue he should never have been given a chance to play pro, because the fact remains that basketball is just a hobby for him.

Cole told ‘SLAM Magazine’, “The main parallel that I always draw between music and basketball is like, ‘Yo, it’s just a matter of hours. The difference between the pro guy that sits on the bench and the superstar, it’s just a matter of intentional hours”. Cole has put in these intentional hours for music, but he has not put in the intentional hours for basketball. 

Many label Cole as being selfish in this respect. He has not put in the effort the way others have, to build a career for himself in basketball, rather he was served it on a silver platter. He used his celebrity to take part in his favorite hobby, contradicting even himself. How can he claim that in order to make it big you need to put in the hours when he himself has not done so?

Cole has robbed more deserving athletes of a chance. Athletes who make it based on their skill, not their name. Athletes who sacrifice their lives to make it. Athletes who have put in those intentional hours.

So, it comes that Cole’s finished basketball career is, in fact, a blessing. For his spot can now be given up to someone more deserved, who will be able to accomplish the dream they have so long strived for.

Highland Park Track 2021

By: McKenna Nutter

Image taken from: Instagram @hptrack

As we near the end of the school year, all of our classes and activities are starting to wind down, including HP Track.

One of our most recent wins was at Conference, with Morgan Jones, a 2021 senior, setting a new school record of 39’ in the shot put. She went on to win the conference championship!

In discus, Josiah Christopher set a new personal record by ten feet, an amazing feat, and went on to win the conference championship too.

Andrew Ali and Charlie Fragassi also went on to set new personal records. 

In the 3200m, first place went to Molly Moening, followed in second by 9th grader Luna Scorzelli, and in fourth by Chloe Koch! Both Molly Moening and Luna Scorzelli beat Molly’s previous record of 5.05.59, both making it within the 4 minute range for their incredibly fast miles. After working hard, it all seems to pay off in their amazingly fast performances. 

On Wednesday, May 12th, Highland Park went against Minneapolis Southwest, and Roosevelt. Highland Park brought home so many winners; it was incredible.

Vincent Langenbrunner took first in the 110HH and the 300HH.

In the 200m, Gospel Simon took the front, and as for the 400m, Spencer West-Hest and Ellie Moore both brought their A-game.

Luna Scorzelli may be a 9th grader, but so much more than thought, because Luna came in #1 for the 1600m.

Amelie Isom couldn’t seem to have put more strength and stamina into her run of the 3200m.

Congratulations to all of our runners, and don’t forget our relay runners: Tommy, Terez, Melvin, and Gospel in the 4×1; Clara, Athena, Ellie P., and Camille in the 4×2; and Ellie M., Delia, Luna, and Molly in the 4×8.

Let’s give a hand to all of our amazing track stars this year. 

The 2020-21 school year has been hard, and many people haven’t been able to participate in after school activities, but thankfully we’ve been lucky enough to have most of our sports teams this year. So many people who play sports rely on them, and we are so thankful that each and every single one of the runners got their chance to do what they enjoy.

This year has brought a lot of new talent to Highland Park Track, but sadly we have to say goodbye to many seniors as well. Fortunately, we were able to send them off with a great season!

Recap of the NFL draft and how it’s changed since last year

By: Charlie Fragassi

This year, the 2021 NFL draft took place in Cleveland, Ohio.

The NFL draft was held with spectators allowed for the first time since last year, when there were no fans allowed because it was pretty much the start of COVID-19. It was held via Zoom, and the players had cameras on and were attending it virtually that way.

Fortunately, things have gotten better so the NFL decided to hold the draft allowing fans. The NFL still was fairly cautious about COVID, so obviously people were wearing masks, but what I thought was cool, was that in the pavilion where the draft was held, they had something called an inner circle. In the inner circle, the only people allowed were people who were fully vaccinated because those people were the closest to the stage and the players when they came out.

As I stated earlier, in last year’s draft, the draft participants were all in a Zoom call at home. This year, the players had the option to fly out to Cleveland and attend the draft in person. This is cool because the players get to go out on stage in front of everyone and meet the commissioner of the league, Roger Goodell, along with receiving their jersey right on stage in real time.

A lot of players opted to go in person to the draft, but a large chunk of them wanted to stay home and celebrate this special moment with their family and friends in the comfort of their own home, which, in my opinion, would be the most ideal thing to do.

Although it may have felt weird to have an in person NFL draft with fans, hopefully it continues this way in the future and we don’t have to worry about having an online draft ever again.

NCAA men’s programs vs. women’s programs

men vs women weight rooms
Image taken from: http://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2021/03/19/ncaa-womens-basketball-tournament-weight-rooms-facilitie s-unequal-orig-mg.cnn.

By: Charlie Fragassi

As some people may know, the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament just finished up a couple weeks ago. Both men and women athletes were quarantined in different states and were playing in “bubbles” to ensure player safety. Athletes were given all the basic necessities, which included access to the weight room.

About a week into March Madness, pictures surfaced of the men’s weight room, which was spacious and had all the basic needs a weight room should have. Days later, a picture of the women’s weight room was posted to the public, and all they had was a rack of dumbbells and some yoga matts.

As you can imagine, this stirred up a ton of controversy with the NCAA and how they treat male versus female athletes. Many celebrities spoke on this matter, including Lebron James.

The NCAA received much hate for this and ultimately ended up giving the women not only a bigger weight room, but also better meals and the same amount of gear as the men’s teams were getting.

The NCAA needs to do a lot better job of treating their athletes, who bring in millions of dollars, and they need to give them a fair shot to perform as well as they are able, regardless of gender.

This is an example of how women’s sports can be treated as inferior to men’s sports. Although women’s basketball doesn’t bring in nearly as much money as the men’s teams, they should still be supplied with the necessities and equipment to stay healthy and get better, because at the end of the day they’re still athletes and they’re working hard everyday to get better at their sport.

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March Madness

By: Charles Fragrassi

If you follow college basketball, then you surely are aware of March Madness. March Madness is a 64 team tournament, with the 64 best college basketball teams. The teams are ranked one through 16 based on their record, strength of schedule, and overall talent.

This year, the teams are in a “bubble” which is a bunch of hotels where the players are quarantined and not allowed to leave to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

A common part of March Madness is filling out a bracket; anyone can fill out a bracket on who you think is going to win the tournament.

If someone were to fill out a bracket and have it be perfect, they would win the Warren Buffet One Million Dollar Challenge. Warren Buffet says he would award anyone one million dollars a year for life if they were to fill out a perfect bracket. Filling out a perfect bracket is nearly impossible, in fact the odds are 1-10 billion.

March Madness is also a huge event for gamblers as the AGA (American Gambling Association) estimates 10.4 billion dollars will be gambled, while only 3% of that money will be gambled legally.

In my opinion, March Madness is one of the exciting, fun times of the year. I love filling out brackets and watching games with my friends. March Madness is expected to have record breaking numbers in viewers this year due to the fact that they couldn’t even have the tournament last year due to COVID.

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The Timberwolves’ coach change

By: Alexandra Rimbu

The MN Timberwolves lost to the New York Knicks on Sunday, Feb 21, reaching a league-worst of 7-24 this season. This loss was ultimately what caused management to fire head coach Ryan Saunders, whose replacement, Chris Finch, was named shortly after on Monday.

Saunders’s association with the Timberwolves first began in 2019 when he took an assistant job and was later named interim coach after the firing of Tom Thibodeau. Next season, he took on the job permanently, and at age 33, he became the youngest head coach in the league.

The Timberwolves went 43-94 under Saunders, in a little less than two full seasons. They finished with the third-worst record in the league last season and had the worst record so far before his firing.

CBS Sports claimed that Saunders was stuck in “an impossible situation” on some level. They went on to state there was almost “total roster upheaval during his tenure” and that more games were “lost to injury” than you could have counted. And, of course, the absence of star player Karl-Anthony Towns from a majority of the games did not help the situation.

However, with results like that, the coaching change came as no surprise. Finch was a frontrunner for numerous jobs this offseason, and Rosas, the Timberwolves president, said “Chris brings a wealth of basketball experience from his time in the NBA, G League and Internationally. He is one of the most creative basketball minds in the NBA, has success maximizing players, and I am excited to see him bring our team to the next level and beyond.”

The future looks promising for the Timberwolves, and we’ll have to see if Finch lives up to everybody’s expectations.

Editor’s Note: Since this writing, the Timberwolves have yet to get their 1st win under coach Finch.

​The effects COVID-19 has had on professional sports

By: Charles Fragrassi

Image taken from: “Coronavirus: Coaches near Bench to Wear Masks as NFL Defends Return of Fans for Some Teams”

​COVID-19 has changed all of our lives forever; it changes our daily routines, grocery stores, and sporting events.

The NBA was one of the first major sports organizations to be affected by this; they responded by shutting down completely. After 4 months or so, they resumed play in a “bubble” in Walt Disney World. This was a great solution to COVID as they had zero COVID cases the rest of the season and were able to finished the season.

Major League Baseball was the next sport in season, and they too started their season three months late and had numerous precautions for COVID-19, such as there were to be zero fans in attendance, and teams were set to play against teams that were a certain amount of miles from each other to prevent traveling cross country.

MLB wasn’t as lucky as the NBA, and had people test positive from time to time. Some of the precautions were that they were not allowed to travel with the team and have access to the facilities. In order to get back to playing, they had to not have had a fever for 72 hours, and test negative twice. Although there were a few positive cases from time to time, MLB finished their season with hopes that next season will be back to normal.

As COVID cases grew more and more, there were questions about if the NFL would even have a season. The National Football League defied odds by having a season during the pandemic. Some of the precautions the NFL took were pretty much no handshakes or jersey swaps after the game, which in my opinion made no sense because they were just tackling each other for the past hour.

Players and coaches were also required to wear masks on the sideline and were strongly encouraged to social distance. They also made a requirement that only 62 players were allowed to travel at a time. Also, if any players tested positive, they were immediately placed on the COVID-19 reserve list and weren’t allowed back until it had been 10 days since symptoms first appeared, and they had to be 72 hours symptom free, with two negative tests.

Although there were a few games rescheduled due to COVID, the NFL did a pretty good job and finished the season pretty flawlessly.

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Does Jake Paul have a chance of beating Conor McGregor in a boxing match?

If you haven’t already heard about YouTube, and social media superstar, Jake Paul, challenging the notorious Conor McGregor to a boxing match, you probably aren’t very active on social media as Jake Paul’s challenge to Conor McGregor went viral.

Jake Paul is just a YouTuber who boxed another unfit YouTuber, and a former NBA player, who was only 5’9. He won both fights and thinks he can beat one of the best MMA fighters of all time.

Jake Paul rose to fame alongside his brother Logan Paul. The two brothers went famous on the old app called Vine. Then, when Vine was no longer a thing, they switched to YouTube and became some of the most popular people on the platform, and in social media as whole.

Jake recently got into boxing, and like I said before, has had two fights against two non-boxers, which he won both fights, and actually didn’t look half-bad. Supporting my opinion though, and many others’ opinions, boxing and sports experts say his chances of winning against McGregor are little to none.

Now, Conor is an MMA fighter, which is mixed martial arts, which is a combination of everything fighting such as: boxing, wrestling, jujitsu, kickboxing, and many more forms of fighting. So, Conor actually isn’t strictly a boxer as Jake is, but Conor has been boxing since he was 14, and stand up fighting (boxing) is the best part of his game; he is considered one of the best stand up MMA fighters of all time.

I’d say Jake’s chances of winning a boxing match vs. McGregor is probably around 0.5%. So, around a 1 in 200 chance of winning. My reasoning for the percentage not being lower is an old saying called the “Puncher’s Chance” which this basically means there’s always a chance you can land just one lucky punch and knock your opponent out.

By the way, I am a McGregor fan and not a Jake fan!