Nearly 700 of America’s top athletes, including three with close ties to the Seacoast, compete against the world at the Tokyo Summer Olympics from July 23 to August 8 in games unlike any other thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Friday’s opening ceremonies will give the first indication of the impact of the virus as athletes enter a nearly empty stadium during what is usually a vibrant and exciting ceremony. Japanese network Asahi said only 950 VIPs will attend, including First Lady Jill Biden and Japanese Emperor Naruhito.
“After nearly five years of planning, we suddenly found ourselves having to rethink everything. It was the biggest challenge,” said Takayuki Hioki, executive producer of the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee ceremonies. told CNN.
The four-hour opening ceremony will be broadcast live on NBC starting Friday morning at 6:55 a.m.
The games are set as the pandemic grips Japan, where vaccination rates are far lower than in the United States. There will be few or no fans in the stands, which means that the legendary energy that carried the athletes will be absent. The athletes themselves are subject to strict restrictions which limit their interactions with each other.
The games are broadcast live on NBC’s many streaming platforms, including the United States and the Peacock streaming service. Because Japan is 13 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Saving Time, a lot of events will be shown in the middle of the night here.
The Seacoast is represented by three athletes:
AN EVENT: Women’s diving 10 meters
FIRST COMPETITION: Wednesday August 4 2 a.m. (USA)
Dover Jessica parratto is a member of the US swim team and dives the 10-meter. She attended Indiana University. The 27-year-old finished 10th in the individual 10-meter and 7th in the synchronized 10-meter at the Rio 2016 Games.
She and her family are originally from Indianapolis and moved to Dover in 2009 due to limited facilities, according to her Team USA bio.
Her father Mike coached Olympic swimmer and Dover resident Jenny Thompson whom she is close as a sister.
Elle Purrier Saint-Pierre
AN EVENT: 1,500 meters of women’s athletics
FIRST COMPETITION: Sunday August 1 8:35 p.m. (USA)
Former star of the UNH track Elle Purrier Saint-Pierre will run the 1,500 meters as part of the track team on his maiden trip to the Olympics.
Originally from Vermont, 26, she grew up on a dairy farm and graduated from UNH in 2018. She married Jamie St. Pierre in 2020.
AN EVENT: 5,000 meters of women’s athletics
FIRST COMPETITION: Friday July 30 6 a.m. (Peacock)
Sanford Rachel Schneider raced for St. Thomas Aquinas in Dover is a member of the women’s track and field team and will run the 5,000 meters in her first Olympic appearance.
Schneider, a Georgetown University graduate, lives in Flagstaff, Arizona, and is now a Big Brother Big Sister mentor who trains often with his three dogs, according to his Team USA bio.