Monday, July 19, 2021


 Dear Sports Fanatics (that excludes my wife of course),

Alan Witherden

          Here’s what competitors and even judges have to go through to pass the Tokyo test for an Olympics that is like no other, as given to me by South Africa’s permanent Games canoe judge Alan Witherden.

          He hasn’t exactly been doing this at every Olympics but he would have been if he had been born earlier. He adjudicated this sport at Athens, not at the first modern games in 1896, but in 2004; at Beijing (2008); Rio (2016) and now at Tokyo if this one takes place. Alan surely deserves a long service medal.

          Although he has been a judge since 1997 until now at every annual Canoeing World Sprint Championship that is held (not in Olympic years) in various countries around the world, mainly in Europe, he was not considered for the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Lack of experience ruled him out. How ridiculous can you get?

          He also didn’t do it at the London Olympics in 2012 because he was managing Brigitte Hartley, the winner of the bronze medal for South Africa.

Alan looking his usual smart self at the Beijing Olympics

         As an international business consultant I don’t know how 72 year old Alan has found time to do any proper work because his life has certainly been international alright, but it’s been one canoeing holiday after another. Here’s a run down of his paddling life. I’m sure a lot of you would have loved to have been in the same boat.

  • Founder and Honorary Life member, Dabulamanzi Canoe Club, Emmarentia Dam, Johannesburg.   
  • Secretary, Transvaal Canoe Union. 
  • Chairman, Peninsula Canoe Club, Sandvlei, Muizenberg, Cape Town.
  • Secretary, Western Province Canoe Union.·     
  • Chairman, Transvaal Canoe Union.·     
  • Executive Member, Canoeing South Africa.·      
  • Canoe Representative, South African Sports and Olympic Committee.·    
  • Chairman, Canoe South Africa Sprint Committee (the Olympic discipline).·      
  • Manager, CSA Sprint Canoeing Teams to Spain, Italy, Hungary.
  • Honorary Life Member, Gauteng Canoe Union.
  • Honorary Life Member, Canoeing South Africa.
Brigitte Hartley

       This is what Alan sent me about what is expected of him at this very, very unusual Games:

“The reason being advanced for opposition to the games is the threat posed by the Covid 19 epidemic that will spread the infection exponentially due the influx of thousands of athletes, support staff, officials, TV crews, journalists and many others from all over the world.  Is this a valid concern?  Is there a risk? The answer is a definite NO!  The reason is that in true Japanese style, the measures to prevent infected incomers from entering Japan are detailed and surely bullet-proof.  The publication of a 69 page Olympic Playbook that describes the requirements to be met before entering Japan and conduct once part of the Olympic process in Japan is evidence of the concern to conduct a Covid-free Games.  The measures include:

·      All entrants to Japan must be fully vaccinated. Fourteen days before departure, one has to enter a daily health report (temperature, fever etc) onto a Tokyo Olympic Committee – arranged mobile ‘phone App. 96 hrs and 72 hrs before departure, two negative Covid tests by a TOC approved testing centre.

·      Covid Test upon arrival at the airport in Japan. If positive, ushered into isolation. Note: The SA Sevens team was sent into 10-day isolation on Wednesday 14 July because a passenger on their incoming flight tested positive.

·      Proof of a contact-tracing App on one’s smart phone upon arrival. Should one test positive or come into contact with an affected person during the games, immediate isolation will result. Proof of the health-status App with a preceding 14-day report is required on one’s phone. There will also be a daily Covid test.

·      While at the Games mask wearing, social distancing etc are required. Note: My co-officials and I will each have our own hotel room during our stay where we will live when not on duty. Meals will be delivered to us there and no socializing will be allowed. If we want anything else we have to ask the hotel staff and they will bring it to us in our room."

Alan with his Catamaran driver Hiryoypki Izumi at the Games Preparation
Competition Tokyo, Sept. 2019 

For once Alan will not be having his usual holiday being confined to his room when not on the water. Sight seeing will be out, but as canoeing has already taken him to most parts of the world it shouldn’t be much of a hardship. Many athletes and their support staff have already arrived in Tokyo and he will be flying out on Friday 30 July.

Regards, Jon

P.S. Apart from canoeing Alan’s other claim to fame is that he is married to our daughter Sally and we always thought he had a steady job.

   P.P.S. Here’s hoping that Alan and all the athletes and officials will have a Covid free Olympics so that we can all see the usual spectacular performances on television siting at home in isolation so we don't interrupt anything.










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