On the 6th January, a couple of days before Bow 139 went to press, the Olympic Games were 200 days away.
The Summer Olympics is the biggest dance of all for archery as a global sport, and this year’s outing, on the euphemistically-named Dream Island Archery Field, looks set to raise the bar for the sport a little higher.
One issue that blighted the Rio 2016 Games was poor attendance. While the archery finals were busy, many sessions were barely a quarter-full in the cavernous Sambodromo – a level of attendance repeated across many other sports in a city that really didn’t take the Games to its heart. The Paralympics in Rio, with lower ticket prices and slightly better weather, was actually far better attended than the Olympics itself.
That will not be a problem in Tokyo; the Japanese public are mad for Olympic sport and almost all seats have been snapped up already. (Many thousands of Japanese tourists spend fortunes travelling across the world to the Olympics every two years). The archers can look forward to full sessions, just as they did for London 2012.
The archery field in Tokyo is in Yumenoshima Park, almost on the water in the southeast of the city. It is part of a green space that hosts a small cluster of different sports facilities.
The ranking round field, with its characteristic curved roof, was built by local government rather than the Games organising committee, and will remain as a permanent archery field after the Olympics. It’s a huge space with room for 64 target bosses (only 32 are needed for an Olympic Games) and seems to be a likely possible location for future archery events.
The finals arena and its accompanying stands and concessions and so on are all temporary; they will be removed after the Games and the space will be converted back into the running track it was up until the end of last year (and which you can see on Google Maps, if you want to take a peek).
It’s perhaps fair to say that the Dream Island field does not have the iconic weight as a venue that the Sambodromo or Lords Cricket Ground had, although the curious bio-domes in the background are interesting.
One of archery’s strongest plusses as part of a multi-sport event is the fact that you can do it almost anywhere flat; unlike canoe slalom or bobsleigh, you don’t need to purpose-build anything new.
The test event didn’t have the spectators or the stands to really push the venue and grasp how it will look and feel, so perhaps we are in for a surprise. (In Paris in 2024 the archery will be held on the Esplanade des Invalides, a historic venue right in the middle of town, and I’ve got the feeling it’s going to do a lot for the sport).
Archers get around a week in July before competition starts to practice freely on the qualification field and in specific acclimatisation sessions on the main finals field. Will we see another men’s world record fall, as happened in both 2012 and 2016?
Italy name starry trio as heads of Olympic squad
Much is expected of the Italian side in Tokyo, after a relative underperformance in Rio. Before 2016, Italy collected at least one Olympic archery medal at each of the Games between 1996 and 2012.
Sante Spigarelli, who competed at the 1972, 1976, and 1980 Olympic Games has been named as overall head with ultimate responsibility for the high-performance programme.
Natalia Valeeva, the 2007 World Champion and double Olympic bronze medallist will coach the women’s teams, while the no-less starry Matteo Bisani – owner of team Olympic silver and bronze medals – will coach the men’s team.
The team has qualified one men’s and one women’s spot for Tokyo 2020 so far, after failing to get either team through at the Worlds last year. There is a chance to convert those single spots to team quotas at the final qualifying tournament, held as part of the Berlin stage of the 2020 Archery World Cup.
World Champion Lei Chien-Ying named to Taipei Olympic Team
Not many squads are naming specific archers to squads yet, with most nations holding a final trials around March / April this year.
However, Lei Chien-Ying of Chinese Taipei is officially going to Rio, as their trials procedure gave an automatic place to anyone who podiumed individually at the World Championships.
The Taipei women’s team finished third in Rio, are currently the reigning world champions, and are widely considered one of the few teams who can seriously challenge the Korean women for the gold medal in Tokyo.