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Paralympics Bar All Fans From Attendance Due To Covid-19 Concerns

Just as all fans were recently banned from the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games, organizers for the Paralympics this year announced that all spectators will be barred from the event due to the coronavirus pandemic.

During the Olympics some fans were able to spectate from outlying areas away from Tokyo, however, for the Paralympics organizers are planning on barring all fans with the exception of some children for a couple of events. Organizers are also telling the public not to come out to view any road events. 

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International Paralympic Committee president Andrew Parsons, organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike and Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa all met last week to finalize these decisions before announcing it to the public. 

The Paralympics begin on August 24th with about 4,400 athletes projected to participate. The Olympics this year had around 11,000 athletes, so the smaller scale should hopefully make it easier for organizers to manage health and safety procedures. 

The announcement also comes as Japan, and Tokyo specifically, sees a rise in Covid-19 case numbers. Parsons spoke at a news conference where he proclaimed that there was no room for complacency in the wake of the Olympics. 

“In light of the current case numbers in Tokyo and wider Japan, everyone attending these games must be vigilant.” 

New Covid-19 infections tripled in Tokyo throughout the 17-day period that the Olympics were occuring, however, local health expert’s haven’t directly linked the rise in cases to the Games themselves. Experts instead believe that the Olympic games caused a lot of the public to get distracted and put them into a false sense of security. 

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Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced this week that a state of emergency in Tokyo and other areas will be extended until September 12th; the current state of emergency has been in place since July 12th and was initially meant to end later this month. 

“The surge in infections is reaching alarming record highs,” Suga said.

This past Friday Tokyo logged around 5,800 new cases, and on Sunday it logged about 4,300 more. This rise in infections has put an extreme strain on Japan’s healthcare system and its workers.

Dr. Haruo Ozaki, president of the Tokyo Medical Association, said in an interview that “a significant number of people are still unvaccinated, and characterized the virus situation for the Paralympics as worse than it was during the Olympics.”

About 37% of the Japanese population is thought to be fully vaccinated at this point. Ozaki said the decision to not have fans at the Paralympics was a “minimum necessity, holding the event in general is a political decision, but the judgement by the medical side is that it will be difficult. 

“The Olympics is a festival and might have affected the people in ways to loosen up and served as an indirect cause of rising cases.”

Olympics

Organizing Committee Chief For Tokyo Olympics Claims Games Could Still Be Cancelled

The chief of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, Toshiro Muto, claimed that a last-minute cancellation was not off the table for the Olympic Games this year, despite the fact that the opening ceremony is scheduled to take place this Friday.

A combination of athletes testing positive for Covid-19 and major Olympic sponsors pulling out of the opening ceremony is what has so many experts worried.

“We can’t predict what will happen with the number of coronavirus cases. So we will continue discussions if there is a spike in cases,” Muto explained.

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“We have agreed that based on the coronavirus situation, we will convene five-party talks again. At this point, the coronavirus cases may rise or fall, so we will think about what we should do when the situation arises.”

Covid-19 cases are currently on the rise in Tokyo. The Games are set to happen with no spectators, and Japan decided this month that participants will be competing in empty venues to minimize health risks.

So far there have been 67 cases of Covid-19 in Japan among the individuals accredited for the Games since the beginning of July, when a majority of the athletes started arriving. Japan’s vaccination program overall has been delayed, and the city of Tokyo is currently experiencing a surge of new cases with 1,387 being reported on Tuesday.

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Seiko Hashimoto, who sits alongside Muto as organizing committee President, said that “safety measures introduced to reassure the Japanese public had not necessarily done so, I’m aware that popular support for the Games had dropped.”

“I really want to apologize from my heart for the accumulation of frustrations and concerns that the public has been feeling towards the Olympics.”

Kenji Shibuya, former director of the Institute for Population Health at King’s College London, said that the Olympics bubble system was “already kind of broken. My biggest concern is, of course, there will be a cluster of infections in the (athletes’) village or some of the accommodation and interaction with local people,” he added.

“Members of the public are concerned because they feel that the current situation appears to show that the playbooks that were meant to guarantee security are not providing a sense of safety.”

55% of the Japanese population claimed that they were opposed to the Games and wanted them to be cancelled, according to a poll performed by a local media outlet.

Olympic Athletes Will Put On Their Own Medals This Year To Prevent Spreading Of Covid-19 

The International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach announced this week that all athletes at the Tokyo Olympics will put their medals around their own necks as a means of protecting themselves and others from the Covid-19 virus. 

“The medals will not be given around the neck. They will be presented to the athlete on a tray, and then the athlete will take the medal to him or herself.”

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“It will be made sure that the person who will put the medal on the tray will do so only with disinfected gloves so that the athlete can be sure that nobody touched them before,” Bach explained. 

Many individuals in the industry were wondering what the medal ceremonies would look like this year, considering Japan is currently enduring another state of emergency due to the spreading of the Delta variant of Covid-19. 

In Europe, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has been personally hanging medals around the necks of all players involved in the competition finals. He also shook hands with Italy’s standout goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma and other all star players. 

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Bach, however, confirmed this Wednesday that during the 2021 Tokyo Games there will be no hand shaking or hugs allowed during the ceremony. This marks just one of the many changes the International Olympic Committee is going to have to continue to endure for deciding to move forward with the Games this year. 

Many of the residents of Japan are adamantly against hosting the Olympic Games this year, considering the world is still very much battling the Covid-19 pandemic, despite the rollouts of multiple vaccines internationally. 

Vaccination rates are different in every country, so the thought of bringing in thousands of individuals from hundreds of countries all with different vaccination and infection rates, has most Japanese citizens worried for the health of their country; especially considering they’re currently in lockdown and the Games are set to begin in less than two weeks. 

It’s still unclear what other modifications will be made to the Games this year. Covid-19 infection rates are still on the rise in Tokyo and Japan in general, and while the IOC has taken a multitude of measures to protect all athletes and staff involved in the Olympics, it’s unclear how smoothly this event will go considering all that’s at stake.

Tokyo Olympics

Japan Declares Covid-19 State Of Emergency Two Weeks Before Olympic Games 

The Tokyo Olympics will still be happening later this month despite the fact that Japan has just entered into another state of emergency due to the spreading of the Covid-19 virus. The Japanese government announced this week that it would be reinstating strict health and safety measures that will take effect next week and last throughout the Olympic Games. 

The biggest measure that’s being taken is that no spectators will be allowed to attend the games, Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa announced this morning. Japanese media outlets reported that all venues in and around Tokyo will be completely unattended.

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The Tokyo Metropolitan Government reported 920 new Covid cases just 16 days before the Games. This is 200 more than any other single-day total since May. This Thursday the country reported another 896 cases. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga vowed to protect the nation as much as possible from further spreading. 

“New infections are in their expansion phase and everyone in this country must firmly understand the seriousness of it. I vow to do everything we can to prevent the further spread of the infections.”

“I think we can all be very satisfied that the strict measures, having been established to protect everybody — the Japanese people and the participants of the Games — have proven to be successful,” said IOC president Thomas Bach. 

Olympic organizers have outlined a plan that will enforce a “complex web of Covid countermeasures that will limit contact between Olympic participants and non-participant Japanese citizens,” according to Bach. 

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The measures will force “Level 1” participants (athletes, coaches, team officials and more) to be tested daily, and other levels of participation will be tested based on how often they’re in common Olympic spaces. 

Dr. Shigeru Omi, a top government medical advisor, warned of “continuing risks of a resurgence of the infections that puts pressure on [Japan’s] medical systems.”

Olympic Organizers claimed that “in the event that a state of emergency or other priority measures aimed at preventing infection are implemented at any time after July 12, restrictions on spectator numbers at the Games, including non-spectator competitions, will be based on the content of the state of emergency or other relevant measures in force at that time.” It was officially announced today that no spectators would be allowed at the Games. 

 Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike promised that her city would “control the flow of people and be thorough with regard to measures to prevent infection during and around the Games.”

Japanese residents have been adamant in their disapproval of the Games still occurring this year despite the fact that so many countries have such different vaccination and infection rates.

Tokyo Olympics Will Likely Be A Fan-Free Event 

The president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee alluded to the strong possibility that the 2021 Summer Games will likely bar local fans from attending. Fans from abroad were barred from the event months ago due to Covid-19 risks, and the committee has less than two months to decide whether or not the locals of Japan will be able to attend. 

Regardless of what the committee decides, however, a majority of Japanese residents have been adamant about their disapproval of the Olympic Games from occurring this year. Multiple surveys have shown that more than half of the citizens of Japan want the Games to be cancelled or postponed another year due to safety concerns. 

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Beyond the obvious concerns over bringing in groups of people from every single country in the world to one small venue, the Japanese government recently extended a state of emergency until June 20th due to a rise in Covid-19 cases that’s straining the country’s medical system. 

Organizers and the International Olympic Committee are insisting that they will be going ahead with the games this year, despite the multiple polls showing 60% – 80% of Japanese residents want them called off. 

“We would like to make a decision as soon as possible (on fans), but after the state of emergency is lifted we will assess,” organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto said.

“There are many people who are saying that for the Olympic Games we have to run without spectators, although other sports are accepting spectators. So we need to keep that in mind. We need to avoid that the local medical services are affected. We need to take those things into consideration before agreeing on the spectator count.”

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Over 15,000 Olympic and Paralympic athletes from more than 200 countries are expected to come into Japan for the 2021 Olympic Games. The New England Journal of Medicine recently wrote an op-ed regarding the IOC and their adamant attitude in relation to making the Games happen this year. 

“We believe the IOC’s determination to proceed with the Olympic Games is not informed by the best scientific evidence. Organizers should reconsider holding the Olympics in the middle of a pandemic.”

Japan experienced around 12,500 deaths due to Covid-19, and that number has not stopped growing. The vaccination rollouts in Japan began slowly, and currently only about 5% of the population is fully vaccinated. 

Japan has spent about $15.4 billion to organize the Olympics, and Richard Pound, senior IOC member, told a British newspaper that the games will take place unless “Armageddon” occurs. IOC president Thomas Bach claimed that “everyone in the Olympic community needs to make sacrifices if we want to hold the Games this year,” despite the fact that a majority of Japanese residents have made it clear that they want the opposite of that.

Tokyo Olympics

80% Of Japanese Residents Oppose Hosting The Olympic Games Due To Covid-19 Concerns 

As Japan continues to battle a fourth wave of coronavirus infections, citizens are making their voices heard and telling authority figures that they don’t agree with hosting a worldwide event that will prompt individuals traveling from all over the world to one contained stadium location/ Olympic village. 

The latest survey comes just 10 weeks before the Games are projected to begin, Japan also recently expanded their coronavirus state of emergency to combat the fourth wave they’re currently enduring. 

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Medical professionals in Japan have repeatedly warned government officials that the healthcare industry is being overrun; not to mention the fact that healthcare workers are also getting sick which means there’s less professionals in the nation to help combat the new cases. 

Asahi Shimbun is the paper responsible for the survey, which found that 43% of the respondents want the Games to be totally cancelled, while 40% want it to be postponed again. The paper performed the same survey one month ago, and the most recent results show a 35% increase in those who want a postponement or complete cancellation. 

The poll surveyed a little more than 1,500 residents, of which only about 14% still supported the Games being held in Tokyo this summer. If the Games continue as planned, 59% of the respondents claim they want the event to enforce no spectators, while 33% said they would be okay with a limited capacity policy. 

Ever since it was announced that Tokyo rescheduled the 2020 Summer Olympic Games to this summer the citizens of Japan have been adamant about their disapproval, especially since the world is still battling the Covid-19 virus despite the rollout of multiple vaccines. 

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Kyodo News is a separate paper that also polled Japanese citizens, and they found that about 60% of all respondents want a complete cancellation of the Games; Kyodo News didn’t offer “postponement” as an option either. 

Olympic organizers have claimed multiple times that they’re taking all of the necessary anti-virus measures to protect all parties and athletes involved in the Games. However, the Kyodo poll found that about 88% of respondents worry that the presence of thousands of athletes and staff members from around the world will only further spread the virus and its multiple variants that now exist. 

Japan has seen a much smaller virus outbreak when compared to other countries, with only experiencing 115,000 deaths, however, the country is relatively smaller than the other nation’s that have experienced heavy waves of infections and death. 

The Kyodo Poll also found that 85% of respondents think the Japanese government’s rollout of Covid-19 vaccines has been slow, and 72% said they were unhappy with the government’s handling of the entire pandemic.

Olympics

Another Tokyo Olympic Official Has Resigned After Making Sexist Comments 

The 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games creative director, Hiroshi Sasaki, resigned this week after he made demeaning remarks about well-known Japanese celebrity Naomi Wanatabe. This is now the second Tokyo Olympic official to resign after making offensive comments directed at women; nearly one month ago the president of the organizing committee was forced to resign after making sexist comments. 

The Tokyo Olympics are currently scheduled to begin in four months from now with the Olympic torch relay set to start next week in northeastern Japan; 10,000 runners are set to move across Japan for the next four months. 

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Last year, Sasaki suggested to staff members that well-known entertainer Naomi Watanabe could perform in the ceremony as an “Olympig,” an obvious play on words to the word “Olympic,” and an offensive remark regarding Sasaki’s inappropriate, and uncalled for, view of the entertainers body. 

Watanabe is a major female fashion icon in Japan, and is one of the most famous celebrities in the country as well. The story regarding Sasaki’s remarks were initially reported in the magazine Bunshun, and eventually it was everywhere. Considering this story broke less than a month after the organizing committee’s president was forced to resign for commenting that women talk too much in meetings, it makes sense that Sasaki would be just as ostracized just as quickly. Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike spoke on these comments to the press this week as well:

“Sasaki’s comments are extremely embarrassing. When we are talking about what we deliver from Tokyo, or from Japan, we shouldn’t be sending a negative and hateful message.”

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Sasaki released a statement this week announcing his resignation: “For Ms. Naomi Watanabe, my idea and comments are a big insult. And it is unforgivable. I offer my deepest regrets and apologize from the depth of my heart to her, and those who may have been offended by this. It is truly regrettable, and I apologize from the bottom of my heart.”

Current president of the organizing committee, Seiko Hashimoto, also released a statement this week in a news conference following the resignation. “Sasaki’s replacement would come quickly. I did feel that way but he explained, and his intention was very strong. That is how I felt. For those reasons I decided to accept his resignation. The IOC also received the (magazine) article and they were quite concerned.”

This is yet another hurdle in the multitude of things that the IOC and organizing committee have had to endure when it comes to organizing these Games. Both groups believe that the Games should still go on despite the fact that we are not out of the woods with the Covid-19 pandemic yet, while Japanese citizens have been pushing back. This is officially the most expensive Olympics on record due to the delays and adjustments made within the past year. 

Tokyo Olympics

Japan Confirms Tokyo Olympics Will Happen This Summer Without Foreign Fans

Japan has officially decided to move forward with the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games without foreign spectators, according to government officials who recently spoke with the Kyodo national news agency. The decision comes after weeks of pressure from Japanese citizens who are worried about the multitude of individuals coming into the country during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Although there are now multiple vaccines being distributed throughout the world, the new variants and lack of consistency regarding vaccine distribution throughout the world tells us that we’re not totally out of the woods yet with this pandemic, so we have to be precautious. Kyodo is the national news source that typically gets its information directly from the government, who reported this week that no spectators would be admitted from abroad to witness the Games this year. 

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Japan overall has handled the Covid-19 pandemic well. The nation in total has registered less than 450,000 cases and 8,000 deaths total; for reference they have a population of about 126 million. Tokyo, where the Olympics will be occurring, accounts for about 37 million people in that population. 

The Japanese public have been voicing their overwhelming opposition to hosting the Games this summer since the end of last year. Many citizens don’t even want them to be postponed again, and instead just want them to be cancelled altogether until the world has truly returned to a sense of normalcy and Covid-19 isn’t even a part of the conversation when it comes to the Olympics. 

About 80% of citizens who were polled stated that they think the Olympics should be rescheduled, moved, or cancelled altogether. The Games were already postponed after last year when the Covid-19 pandemic was first hitting the world. Ever since that initial postponement, Tokyo Olympic officials and the International Olympic Committee have been debating how to pull off the Games this summer, if at all. 

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Tokyo Olympic officials released a 33-page playbook last month that’s full of fuels for behavior for every party involved in the Olympics. This release was to show the public that they’ve prepared adequately to host the event safely. 

The document offered guidelines for behavior for certain groups of people who are going to attend the Olympics, including athletes and their entourages, but it made no mention of foreign fans, specifically.”

There have been no conversations so far regarding vaccine requirements for athletes, fans, and other parties who will be present at the Games. Japan itself has only just started rolling out vaccines to its citizens as well, with reports of the first doses being administered in mid-February. 

For now it’s still unclear what the 2021 Summer Games will look like, and with a few months and hundreds of millions of vaccines left to be distributed throughout the world, the guidelines are surely subject to change. 

Tokyo Olympics

Postponed Tokyo Summer Olympics Will Likely Not Allow Fans From Abroad To Attend 

Tokyo Olympic organizing committee President Seiko Hashimoto recently hinted at the possibility that no foreign fans would be allowed at the Tokyo Games this year after talking with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and other Olympic executives. Hashimoto didn’t directly say that this rule would be enforced, however, it’s likely that in the coming months the announcement will be made official. 

Japanese newspaper Mainichi cited unnamed sources that were apparently “involved in the discussions” in which Olympic organizers claimed that foreign fans would be excluded from the Games this year due to safety concerns and the uncertainty surrounding where the world will be at with the Covid-19 pandemic by this summer. 

“If the situation is tough and it would make the (Japanese) consumers concerned, that is a situation we need to avoid from happening,” organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto said after discussing how the decision on foreign fans will be officially made by the end of the month. She specifically is wanting one by March 25th, when the torch relay is projected to begin. 

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The Olympic Games are currently expected to open on July 23rd, and according to the Mainichi newspaper, “unnamed government officials already know that in the current situation it is impossible to bring in foreign spectators.”

80% of residents in Japan have claimed that they want the Games to be postponed again, or fully cancelled this year due to the pandemic and health and safety concerns. Japan has overall controlled the pandemic much better than most countries, however, they still experienced 8,000 deaths. 

The subject of fans was a key part of the five-party talks with Bach, International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike and Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa, according to Hashimoto. 

“We will focus on the essentials. That means mainly the competitions. This has to be the clear focus. In this respect we may have to set one or another priority.”

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The exclusion of fans is nothing new to the conversation surrounding the Olympics this year. The Japanese public has adamantly opposed the Games overall, claiming that allowing outsiders from dozens of countries to come into a small arena sounds like the last thing anyone should participate in during a global pandemic. 

According to Bach, “the games will involve 11,000 Olympic athletes, and later 4,400 Paralympians, and tens of thousands of coaches, judges, sponsors, media and VIPs. I was encouraged at the number of national Olympic committees that were getting athletes vaccinated.”

It’s important to note that the IOC said it encourages vaccinations but will not require them. The general plan as of right now is to isolate athletes in an Olympic Village located along Tokyo Bay. Once they arrive they will be placed in a bubble until they leave the nation; kind of like the NBA bubble at Disney but at a much larger scale. 

“A decision on venue capacity will be made by the end of April. We need to look at the overall situation before we decide on any percentage rates. We believe we will not be accepted unless the citizens feel confident that sufficient countermeasures are taken. Having fewer fans will be costly. The organizing committee has budgeted income of $800 million from ticket sales. That shortfall will have to be made up by Japanese government entities,” Hashimoto explained. 

Only time will tell if and how the 2021 postponed Tokyo Summer Olympic Games will be possible. 

Legendary Olympic Athlete, Seiko Hashimoto, Named President Of Tokyo Games 

Seven-time Olympian Seiko Hashimoto made history as the “multi-season” athlete who appeared in four winter Games and three summer ones. Now, she’s breaking barriers and making headlines again after it was announced that the 56-year-old legend will be president of the Tokyo Olympic organization committee. 

In Japan it’s still rare to see women in executive positions of political power. In fact, the committee that Hashimoto is joining is 80% male. She’s replacing Yoshito Mori, the former Japanese prime minister who was forced into resignation last week after making sexist comments regarding women. Hashimoto spoke with the press recently about her excitement to take on this role. 

“Now I’m here to return what I owe as an athlete and return back what I received.” 

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Hashimoto has been serving as the Olympic minister in the cabinet of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, and also has a ton of experience dealing with issues of gender equality and women’s empowerment. She claimed that Tamayo Marukawa will be filling her role as Olympic minister while she transitions into her new position. 

“Of course, it is very important what Tokyo 2020 as an organizing committee does about gender equality. I think it will be important for us to practice that equality,” Hashimoto said according to the translator present at the conference she spoke at this week. Hasimoto made these comments and discussed issues of gender inequality as she sat between two of the most powerful men on the committee. 

She discussed how organizing committees are always male-dominated, and of the ones she’s seen have never had any female vice presidents, citing that the executive board is currently 80% male; for reference there’re around 3,500 employees working for the board. International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach recently spoke with the media about how Hashimoto was “the perfect choice” for taking on this role. 

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“With the appointment of a woman as president, the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee is also sending a very important signal with regard to gender equality.” 

For some background, Hashimoto competed in cycling in the 1988, ‘92, and ‘96 Summer Olympics, and then transitioned to speedskating for the 1984, ‘88, ‘92, and ‘94 Winter Olympics. She only won one medal, a bronze at the 1992 Albertville Games in speedskating, however, her seven Olympic appearances are the most from any “multi-season” athlete in Olympic history, according to historian Dr. Bill Mallon. 

Polls are currently showing that about 80% of the Japanese public want the Olympics to be postponed or cancelled due to concerns over the Covid-19 pandemic. Obviously, the thought of bringing tens of thousands of athletes from all over the world to one contained city seems like the worst idea in the middle of a global pandemic, however, it’s unclear whether or not the Games will be moved again. 

Japan ranks 121 out of 153 on the World Economic Forum’s annual gender equality ranking when it comes to women in positions of power. Naming a woman as president will hopefully be the breakthrough Japan needs to rank higher on that list, and bring more women to the forefront of executive leadership.