IT will be a virtuous circle stretching almost 6000 miles from the UK to Japan and back again.

This will be an Olympics like no other for those set to compete in Tokyo later this month, a Games delayed by a year, beset by a number of coronavirus-related restrictions and denied the atmosphere an  enthusiastic Olympic crowd always brings to the occasion.

Support for the participating Team GB athletes, then, will come from afar this time around. And the hope is that those competing will in turn put in performances that captivate those watching back at home, eager to be inspired and uplifted after 16 months in the pandemic doldrums.

Katherine Grainger, the five-time Olympic medallist recently reappointed for a second term as chair of UK Sport, witnessed the euphoria felt throughout the country at the recent European Championships.

And the Glaswegian hopes the sight of British athletes ascending to the medal podium in Tokyo will do similarly for national pride.

“I’m sure everyone back home will embrace the Olympics as they always do,” said the University of Glasgow Chancellor as she helped lend her support to the importance of universities and their facilities in the country’s post-pandemic health and wellbeing recovery.

“And our athletes will need that more than ever as they won’t have the support in the host country as they normally would. You want the country to get right behind them as the athletes will feel that and will need it.

“The Olympics is such a special event and it has the real potential to be something celebrational in this year of all years.

“I feel really aware now of the contribution that sport can make in people’s lives. We’ve seen recently at the Euros, at Wimbledon and other big international events how much it brings people back together. Sport can unite, connect and inspire people. It gives people optimism and hope.

“It’s hard to predict results without the usual competitive build-up. But the potential of what we’ve seen from the British athletes is really exciting and promising. Mentally and physically our athletes are in the best possible shape they could be following the year that we’ve had.

“It’s been a long time coming for them and they are really itching to get started. All the hard work has been done and I think we’ll see some really great performances. We’ve got a brilliant Scottish contingent in that GB team. And this summer I think we’ll see them lift the nation.”

Grainger competed at five Games as a rower, winning gold in London and picking up silver at each of her four other Olympic appearances.

She acknowledged that this year’s athletes will have to deal with circumstances far beyond anything she ever faced but hoped their support teams would help drown out all the background noise.

“As an athlete you are never completely certain of what might happen and there are often setbacks along the way,” added the 45 year-old.

“But we’ve never had anything like this. Decisions are being made every week on how the Games will go, whether it’s on quarantine, or isolating or something else.

“The lack of crowds is the hardest thing. The athletes have known for a while that there would be no travelling crowd so their families and friends wouldn’t be there. That’s sad for everyone as so much support helps get you there. And now to have no crowds at all, the environment will feel very different to anything we’ve seen before.

“But the overwhelming feeling among the athletes I’ve spoken to over the last few months is just an overwhelming desire to get out there and compete again on the Olympic stage. And if that means no crowds then so be it.

“The athletes know it’s not going to be the Games that five years ago they would have thought. But they feel really lucky to still be able to compete albeit in a very different way.

“You rely on a lot of brilliant people around you to keep athletes’ minds on what’s important and make them realise what they can control.

“Because there are a lot of variables that they can’t. There are shifting sands and at this point leading up to a competition that can be quite distracting. So the people around them have to try to remove as many distractions as possible to let them focus on competing.

“The football showed the power of sport and how it can impact people's lives and I hope we can continue that really positive role at the next big event which is the Olympics and then the Paralympics just after that.”

Grainger is supporting MadeAtUni, a campaign on how universities can improve our everyday lives. To find out more visit