Sending athletes to Covid-riddled Tokyo is fuelled by greed

GREED poisons sport.

Naked greed is the reason six already fabulously wealthy football club owners craved the closed shop of the European Super League, even if that meant destroying the beautiful game as we know and love it.

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Lust for unprecedented piles of loot is the reason that two great British heavyweight champions, Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury, will fight in Saudi Arabia this summer rather than London, Las Vegas or somewhere on nodding terms with basic human rights.

And the bottom line is why, as the world still reels from the greatest health emergency in more than a century, the Olympic Games are — incredibly — all set to go ahead in Tokyo in just 68 days.

The Olympics should be a time of joy and unity. In Japan, these Games are producing nothing but public fury. In a few days, a petition calling for their cancellation has attracted hundreds of thousands of Japanese signatures.

But the official cost of these Olympics — already postponed from last year — is £10billion, although the true figure is meant to be far higher. It feels like too much money has already been blown on these ill-fated games to call them off now, even if the Japanese people don’t want them.

Japan is currently in a state of emergency. There have been more than 665,000 Covid cases, with infections rising — 7,000 on Wednesday alone. More than 11,000 people have died, a small number compared to the UK or the US, but Japan’s vaccination rollout has been catastrophically slow.

Only three per cent of the population have received the jab.

Flying in 11,000 athletes from 205 countries — and diverting thousands of local doctors and nurses to tend to their needs — does not feel much like the pinnacle of sport right now. It seems more like an act of money-driven madness.

I understand the longing among some to see the Tokyo Olympics go ahead. I sympathise with all those athletes who have worked since they were children for their one shining moment of Olympic glory.

But Japan is not emerging from the nightmare of coronavirus. Japan is still in the middle of the plague. And flying in thousands of athletes from hundreds of countries feels reckless beyond belief. And driven by money.

In cricket, the Indian Premier League was only stopped when players started testing positive for coronavirus. The same fate could await the Tokyo Olympics.

If these Games go ahead, will it be because noble Olympian ideals triumphed in the face of adversity? Or will it be because the IOC could not afford to blow out its sponsorship deals?

Greed ruins sport. The fight between Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury is the greatest heavyweight clash since 1971, when Muhammad Ali met Joe Frazier at New York’s Madison Square Garden in the Fight Of The Century.

I don’t blame Fury and Joshua for wanting to make as much money as they can out of the hardest sport in the world.

STUFFING THEIR POCKETS

Any career in boxing can end in one shattering moment. But AJ and Tyson do not have to meet in Saudi Arabia, which still has blood on its elbows from the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The so-called “Rumble In Riyadh” will gross an estimated £107million. But they would still make enough money to live on for the rest of their lives if they did not meet in a country with what Amnesty International calls “an atrocious human rights record”.

I love Fury and Joshua. But most of all, I love boxing.

And it is obscene to see this new Fight Of The Century take place in Saudi Arabia, a country so repressive that women have only been allowed to drive a car since 2018.

I do hope promoters Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren remember to put their clocks back — to the Dark Ages.

As we learned with the collapse of the loathed European Super League, some things should matter more than rich men stuffing their pockets.

With the Tokyo Olympics and the Rumble In Riyadh happening soon, it looks like it is going to be a bumper summer of sport.

But you might want to hold your nose.

DUA AS I SAY, NOT AS I DO

DUA LIPA made a moving speech at the Brits about giving the frontline workers of the NHS the pay rise they deserve.

And she’s right – the proposed one per cent increase is not a raise fit for heroes. But Dua’s fine words would have been even more moving if she had not jetted the world during the height of the pandemic, then bragged about it on social media.

Even the Duke and Duchess of Sussex might blush.

NIC’S ON A LOSER

DOES Nicola Sturgeon really want a referendum on Scottish independence?

She knows she would lose.

Just as canny Scots know their world-beating vaccination rollout was possible only because they are part of the United Kingdom.

JOHN'S SEEDY SHOW

WHY does any man believe his penis is a source of hilarity to others?

The way John Barrowman explains it is that his habitual flashing on the set of Doctor Who was “high-spirited behaviour” and “only ever intended in good humour”.

Sorry, still don’t get it.

Exposing yourself gets you nicked if you do in the street.

Why is it “a party trick” when it happens on a BBC set?

John Barrowman’s flashing was not “tomfoolery”.

It was just a seedy, middle-aged star showing off the size of his status.

CHIP OF THE OLD ROCKER

A LOVELY backstage shot of ballerina Melanie Hamrick and her four-year-old son Deveraux.

His resemblance to his dad Mick Jagger, 77, is remarkable.

Almost as remarkable as the fact that Mick is still having kids at an age when most men struggle to pick up their grandchildren.

WOKE WORDS ON WAR

ISRAEL and Palestine are on the verge of war.

The Israelis bomb Palestine. The Palestinians fire rockets at Israel.

The innocent on both sides are paying the price.

And yet Sir Keir Starmer, Angela Rayner and the TUC offer only one-sided support for the Palestinians.

“Eid Mubarak to all,” tweeted gormless Rayner. “I want to especially keep in the worlds conscious (punctuation is not Angela’s strong point) the Palestinians who are suffering terrible injustices during this joyous occasion.”

The innocent are suffering on BOTH sides of this tragedy.

Extremists on BOTH sides are stoking the flames.

And this pitiful Labour Party are still spouting their woke student cliches.

HOPE FOR MADELEINE JUSTICE

MADELEINE McCANN’s 18th birthday was on Wednesday.

German prosecutors reveal they have new evidence against the prime suspect in the case, Christian Brueckner.

Let’s hope there is some resolution to the missing little girl whose face has haunted so many dreams.

Kate and Gerry McCann have lived with every parent’s worst nightmare. I can’t begin to imagine the depths of their suffering. They deserve our compassion, respect and understanding, now and always.

LOT TO LEARN HARRY

IN a world full of suffering, is Prince Harry going to drone on about his personal pain for the next 50 years?

I suspect he is. Harry’s American paymasters lap up his tales of heartache and woe behind gilded palace walls.

Harry’s latest broadcast from his pulpit of self-pity blasts Prince Charles for his parenting skills. Harry vows he will “break the cycle of pain” with his own children. It would be nice if Harry could – amid the endless tales of despair among the palatial splendour – briefly “verbalize” (as he would put it) that he was born into a life of immense inherited privilege.

He owes all his fortune and fame to his royal status. Harry, you are turning into a performing royal seal for Americans who are obsessed with British royalty.

If you were not born royal, your new sponsors would not be remotely interested in you. I don’t doubt for a second that Harry carries wounds that will never heal. But his brother William must surely have similar wounds.

And our future king does not feel the need to pour his heart out to every salivating American sycophant with a camera crew.

Harry should raise his own children before passing such unforgiving judgment on what a lousy father Prince Charles has been. Give it 20 years, Harry. Decades of parenthood will change your perspective, as it does for us all.

You might discover your father was not such a bad dad after all.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ANA

ANA DE ARMAS celebrated her 33rd birthday quietly, with just a few friends, family members and 4.2million followers on Instagram.

After her brilliant performances in Blade Runner 2049 and Knives Out, I still think of Ana as a newcomer.

Her next film – the long-delayed 007 movie No Time To Die – has already been postponed for more than a year. It is currently scheduled to finally appear on September 30.

Ana will make a fabulous Bond girl. But if they delay it much longer, she will be almost old enough to replace Judi Dench as M.

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