Broke Her Own Icelandic Record at Tokyo Olympics

swimmer Snæfríður Sól Jórunnardóttir

Icelandic swimmer Snæfríður Sól Jórunnardóttir broke her own Icelandic 200-metre freestyle record at her first-ever Olympic event in Tokyo today. She completed the event in 2:00.20, beating her previous record of 2:00.50 by 30/100 of a second.

Despite the impressive personal success, Snæfríður was the last of eight swimmers in Heat 3 and therefore will not proceed to the semifinals for the event. The swimmer will, however, compete in the 100-metre freestyle on Wednesday.

Snæfríður is one of four Icelanders competing in the Olympics this month and was one of Iceland’s two flagbearers in the opening ceremony last Friday. She is from Hveragerði, South Iceland and now lives in Denmark.

Two Swimmers to Carry Icelandic Flag During Olympic Opening Ceremony

Swimmers Snæfríður Sól Jórunnardóttir and Anton Sveinn McKee will carry the Icelandic flag during today’s Opening Ceremony for the 2020 Olympics, RÚV reports. This will be the first time that participating countries will have two flag-bearers, one man and one woman.

Team Iceland is made up of four athletes including Guðni Valur Guðnason, who will compete in discus throw, and Ásgeir Sigurgeirsson, who will compete in 10-metre air pistol shooting. Anton Sveinn will swim in the 200-metre breaststroke, while Snæfríður Sól will swim in two events: the 100- and 200-metre freestyle.

Iceland will be first team to enter the arena after the Team Greece, which always enters first, and the IOC Refugee Olympic team. The procession will proceed according to Japanese alphabetization, making Iceland – which is called aisurando (アイスランド) in Japanese – first in line.

The Opening Ceremony will begin at 8:00 PM in Japan, which is 11:00 AM in Iceland. RÚV will broadcast the ceremony live.

Four Icelanders Compete in Olympics this Month

Swimmer Snæfríður Sól Jórunnardóttir will be the only Icelandic woman competing in this year’s Olympics in Tokyo, mbl.is reports. There will be four Icelandic competitors at the games this year. This is the smallest Icelandic team to attend the Summer Olympics since 1964, when they were also held in the Japanese capital.

Snæfríður was allocated a quota place in the Olympic swimming competition where she will compete in both the 100-metre and 200-metre freestyle. She reached the B qualifying standard before the games in March this year. These are her first Olympic games.

Snæfríður will swim in the preliminary rounds in the 200-metre freestyle on July 26 and the preliminary rounds in the 100-metre freestyle on July 28. The other three Icelanders competing in the games are swimmer Anton Sveinn McKee, who qualified for the games last year, and marksman Ásgeir Sigurgeirsson and discus thrower Guðni Valur Guðnason, who were allocated quota seats.

No Whaling in Iceland for Second Summer in a Row

whale Iceland hvalur

Hvalur, hf. will not do any whaling this summer, RÚV reports. CEO Kristján Loftsson attributes the suspension to difficult conditions, both on the Japanese market, where the company sells the vast majority of its catch, as well as social distancing regulations that make production difficult in Iceland.

Kristján enumerated a number of hurdles that will make whaling in Iceland untenable this summer. For one, he said, the Japanese government subsidises local whalers’ production, which means that Hvalur is not in a competitive position to sell its own products on the market. He continued that there is also now more demand for tests and chemical analysis on whale products from Iceland – tests that are aren’t done on whale products caught and sold in and around Japan. On top of this, social distancing regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic mean that it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to cut up any catch. It’s work that must be done in close proximity with other employees and if one staff member were to get infected, a number of employees would then need to be quarantined.

This is the second summer in a row that Hvalur has suspended its operations, but Kristján says that the company is conducting research on whether iron-rich byproducts from whale catch can be processed for use in dietary supplements for people suffering from anaemia. The company is also researching whether gelatin in whale bones and blubber can be used in therapeutic applications or other food products.

Current Icelandic quota allows for a yearly catch of more than 200 fin whales and 200 minke whales. In 2018, 146 fin whales were caught and six minke whales.

President of Iceland Attends Coronation in Japan

Coronation of Japanese Emperor Naruhito

President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson and First Lady Eliza Reid were in attendance today at Emperor Naruhito’s coronation in Japan. The occasion was attended by at least 180 national leaders. Guðni expressed pleasure, as a historian, at being present at the moment when Naruhito officially inherited the throne from his father Akihito.

“This doesn’t happen every day of course, so the ceremony was very respectable and historic, let’s say,” Guðni told Vísir. “Naruhito takes over from his father Akihito who is still living in advanced old age but resigned from the rank of emperor in April. The Emperor before that was the grandfather of the current Emperor, Hirohito who was Emperor of the Japanese for a large part of the 20th century, so it was a truly historic moment and dignified, but also unpretentious at the same time.”

Gunði says the visit presents various opportunities for strengthening ties between the two countries. The trip’s schedule includes a meeting with Shinzo Abe, Japan’s Prime Minister as well as other members of the Japanese parliament. Both Guðni and Eliza will visit universities in the country during their stay.

The coronation ceremony can be watched in full via Global News.

Whaling ‘Goes Directly Against Iceland’s Interests’

iceland whale

Japan’s decision to exit the International Whaling Commission and resume commercial whaling will likely have an influence on the export of Icelandic whale meat to the country, says Árni Finnsson, director of the Icelandic Nature Conservation Association. The pending exit has already drawn criticism from the international community, Árni remarked in an interview with RÚV, as has Iceland’s continued involvement in this industry. Icelandic whale meat is sold domestically, as well as being exported to Japan, which also buys whale meat from Norway.

The Guardian reported that On Wednesday, the Japanese government’s chief spokesman, Yoshihide Suga announced that the country would be withdrawing from the international regulatory body effective June 30, 2019, and in July will resume commercial whaling within its coastal waters for the first time in over 30 years. There has been a global ban on commercial whaling since 1986.

Not only does Árni believe that Iceland will face an increase in international pressure to discontinue whaling practices, he also believes that Japan’s decision will make it harder for the Icelandic government to distribute quotas for whaling catch that will be sold to Japan.

“I think that whaling’s time has long passed and there isn’t really any demand for this product in Japan. Iceland has every interest in protecting the ocean, in supporting and strengthening international oceanic protections against ocean acidification, climate change, and pollution,” he remarked. And in order to promote climate change cooperation and solidarity, Iceland needs to maintain good international relations.

Whaling, Árni concluded, “goes directly against Iceland’s interests.”