Tokyo bids farewell to Games

Tokyo has handed the Olympic baton over to 2024 host Paris at a closing ceremony staged in a largely empty stadium, after an unprecedented Olympic Games marked by pandemic restrictions.

What we know:

  • Athletes entered Tokyo’s Olympic stadium bearing their country’s flag, cheered on by a “fan video matrix” uploaded by spectators watching at home (AP); 
  • The pandemic made the Olympics even more expensive than usual, with Japan footing a $15bn bill with no international visitors or crowds at the events;
  • The US topped the medal table with 39 gold among 117 medals, while host nation Japan was third with 27 gold and 58 medals total;
  • Australia equalled its best result, finishing in sixth with 17 gold, 7 silver and 22 bronze (Fox Sports); 
  • Men’s 470 sailing gold medallist Mat Belcher carried the Australian flag, with many of his fellow athletes having left Tokyo as instructed right after their final event;
  • A raft of world records were smashed by large margins, including on the athletics track where controversy swirled around “performance-enhancing shoes” (Reuters); 
  • Another kind of record was broken during the Olympics – Japan registered its highest number of Covid-19 infections since the start of the pandemic, with 15,645 new cases on Friday (Reuters);
  • Very few people within the tightly controlled Olympic bubble were infected, with more than 70% of participants vaccinated (Japan Times);
  • The Paralympic Games begin in roughly a fortnight;
  • With Tokyo’s 2020 Summer Games delayed due to Covid-19, the Winter Games begin in just six months in Beijing.
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Snap lockdown in Cairns

Stay-at-home restrictions have lifted in south-east Queensland just as another part of the state enters a new lockdown.

In Queensland:

  • The lockdown in the south-east has eased after the state recorded nine new local cases on Sunday (Nine); 
  • One of the cases was an unexpected infection in a taxi driver in Cairns, prompting a snap three-day lockdown in the Far North Queensland city (ABC); 

Around the country:

  • NSW recorded 262 locally acquired cases on Sunday, with even tighter restrictions imposed on 12 suburbs in Western Sydney (SMH); 
  • Victoria will offer easier access to AstraZeneca for 18 to 39-year-olds, opening up nine new mass vaccination sites as the state records 11 new cases (7News); 
  • Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt revealed Australia is set to approve the Moderna vaccine in the next fortnight, claiming first doses will be given in mid September (ABC). 
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JobKeeper winners protected

A bid to publicly reveal the full list of big businesses to receive JobKeeper support is set to fail, as the Coalition blocks legislation and Labor backs away from the proposal.

Independent senator Rex Patrick last week successfully amended the federal government legislation for new financial support for workers and businesses to mandate that big business disclose JobKeeper payments received (ABC).

The Coalition rejected the amendment in the House of Representatives, with the bill back before the Senate and due to be voted on again today.

Labor is understood to be wavering on its insistence on the amendment.

Publicly listed companies such as Cochlear and Domino's Pizza have returned at least some of the JobKeeper funds they received.

Privately held companies can evade scrutiny as they have no obligation to publicly reveal the state of their books.

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Call for overseas parent exemptions

Australians separated from their parents during the pandemic have rallied to call for travel exemptions.

Advocacy group Parents are Immediate Family organised protests over the weekend in cities not under lockdown including Adelaide, Perth and Canberra (SBS). 

The protesters called for parents and grandparents of Australian citizens and permanent residents to be granted the same exemption to the travel ban already granted to spouses and de facto partners.

Earlier this year, a petition with 70,000 signatures was tabled in parliament by independent MP Zali Steggall calling for the exemptions.

Protest organiser Joanne Johnson said there were some Australian citizens and permanent residents who were leaving the country for good over the policy.

“They are taking those well-needed skills that Australia was desperate for originally and they're going,” she said.

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Wildfires rage across Greece and Turkey

Fires are raging across Greece and Turkey, as southern Europe swelters through one of its worst heatwaves in decades.

The forests of Greece’s second largest island Evia are ablaze, with thousands evacuated via ferries to escape the flames (Reuters). 

Fires have torn through the southern Peloponnese peninsula near ancient Olympia and in an area north of Athens, with authorities setting up health hotlines for residents of the capital as it is choked by smoke.

Rains have brought some relief to Turkey, where crews have worked to bring hundreds of fires under control over the past week, with six blazes still going (Hurriyet). 

"The fires that happened this year never happened in our history," Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told reporters.

The fires have prompted domestic opposition to criticise Erdoğan over his climate policies, with Turkey one of only five nations yet to ratify the 2015 Paris climate agreement (Politico). 

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You book, you drive up, roll down your window, roll up your sleeve, get a jab. It’s that easy.

In Melbourne the vaccination drive is quite literally accelerating, as Victoria’s Department of Health deputy secretary Naomi Bromley unveils the state’s first drive-through vaccine clinic (ABC).

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Postscript: This Olympian’s Overjoyed Celebration Is Proof That Winning Bronze Is Better Than Silver

Still in the pool, he threw both fists up in the air as a grin stretched across his face. Once on the victory stand he bit his medal, later deep-kissing his coach-turned-wife. In a picture of all three medallists, he appeared happier than both the gold and silver medallists combined. But little did Fratus know that in his jubilation, he was recreating a meme making fun of people who celebrate what’s considered a mediocre achievement (Vice).

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Max Opray is Schwartz Media’s morning editor and a freelance writer.