The start of the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo is scheduled for July 23, postponed for a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, the situation with the spread of the disease this summer remains difficult. Is a cancellation or another transfer likely? The Japanese authorities assure that everything is under control and the problems will be resolved. How?
The question of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the holding of the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, which is scheduled to start on July 23, remains one of the main issues on the sports agenda.
The International Olympic Committee is pushing for the Games to be held as planned, and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the authorities will do their utmost to ensure a safe and secure event.
But Tokyo recently re-introduced an emergency regime, polls show that many Japanese oppose the Olympics in 2021, and the number of cases of COVID-19 is growing in Asia and other regions.
CAN THE OLYMPICS BE CANCELED? ARE JAPANESE PEOPLE WILLING TO HOST THE GAMES?
Cancellation is highly unlikely. Although when asked why the government is actively continuing to prepare for the Games, despite the obvious risks, Yoshihide Suga replied cautiously: “I am responsible for protecting the lives and safety of the Japanese.
Of course, we would not hold the Games if we could not protect the people. The organizers have reduced the number of foreign delegations allowed to participate to less than half of the original estimate of 180,000, and further reductions are being considered. We will continue to apply anti-virus measures while maintaining high vigilance.”
In Tokyo, on July 12, an emergency regime has been introduced for the fourth time, which will last until the end of the Olympic Games.
Prior to this date, the capital had strengthened measures against the spread of COVID-19 – a little softer than the emergency regime, although in both cases there are restrictions on the opening hours of restaurants, bars and entertainment establishments, as well as on the sale of alcohol.
The Tokyo authorities hoped to maintain such a regime, but the increased spread of the coronavirus did not allow this to be done.
One of the latest opinion polls conducted by Nikkei showed that 22% of respondents consider it reasonable to hold the Olympics with a stadium occupancy of up to 10 thousand people.
33% said that the Games should be held without spectators, 4% supported the holding of competitions without restrictions, while 37% answered that everything should be canceled or postponed. That is, about 59% supported the Games this year.
IS THERE A TRADITIONAL OLYMPIC TORCH RELAY PLANNED?
Yes, but with limitations. The Olympic Torch Relay will not take place on public roads in most parts of Tokyo during the first eight days of the stage, July 9-16.
In many other parts of the country, activities have also been scaled back. The relay format for the period from July 17 to the opening ceremony on July 23 will be approved at a later date.
IS VACCINATION REQUIRED OR ARE PCR TESTS SUFFICIENT?
There is no decision on the mandatory vaccination of athletes and organizers, but immunization is encouraged.
The Tokyo Olympics organizing committee announced that it will provide all 70 thousand volunteers working at the Games facilities with the opportunity to receive a vaccine against COVID-19, and some volunteers in contact with athletes have already been vaccinated.
The prime minister personally visited Tokyo’s Haneda International Airport to check border controls regarding the coronavirus.
He stressed that strict rules will be applied to foreign athletes and officials prohibiting contact with the local population.
Foreign athletes will be required to take tests on two different days within 96 hours of leaving for Japan. They will also be checked daily at the Olympic Village during the Games.
The government intends to strengthen control over the entry into the country of Olympic teams from six states, where a large-scale spread of the Delta coronavirus strain has been recorded.
Such measures will affect the national teams of India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Afghanistan.
Athletes from these countries will need to take infection tests every day for a week before flying to Japan.
In addition, during this period and for three days after arriving in Japanese territory, they will be prohibited from contact with anyone other than their coaches and representatives of their teams. The increased requirements for these teams came into effect on July 1.
INFECTIONS ARE UNLIKELY TO BE AVOIDED – WHO WILL TAKE THE RISKS?
The IOC will oblige athletes participating in the Olympics to withdraw in writing from claims related to the coronavirus.
The document developed for signing says that all risks due to a possible threat to health are taken under personal responsibility.“
You’ve probably followed the news about COVID-19 around the world – no government, no health authority can give guarantees in the event of an infection. This is a risk that we all take on, ” explained IOC Chief Operating Officer Lana Haddad.
DO YOU PLAN TO MONITOR THE MOVEMENT OF ATHLETES AND JOURNALISTS USING GPS?
The organizers intend, if necessary, to track the movements of athletes using a GPS system. Secretary General of the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee Toshiro Muto spoke about this at a press conference.
Earlier it was announced that similar measures will be applied to foreign journalists who are accredited for the competition.
At the same time, we are not talking about tracking each individual movement of a person – only when the need arises.
For example, if he becomes infected, then the security service will track and establish his possible contacts in order to prevent further spread of the disease.
WHAT ABOUT FANS IN THE STANDS AND FAN ZONES?
Foreigners were initially banned from attending the Olympics and Paralympics, and the organizers planned to allow local spectators to watch the Games from the stands.
But due to the introduction of an emergency regime in Tokyo, Japanese fans will not be able to attend the competition either.
The situation is the same in Fukushima, where baseball and softball games are planned. Stadiums in Miyagi and Shizuoka prefectures are currently allowed to host up to 50% of the capacity, or up to 10,000 people.
Only children will be allowed in Ibaraki. “I am very sorry for all the people who were disappointed. I hope you understand what a difficult choice we have made, ” said Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto.
The Tokyo authorities decided to completely abandon the organization of mass viewing of the competition in the fan zones of the city in order to prevent the spread of infection.
Some of these spaces, where it was planned to install screens for showing competitions, will be used to organize centers for coronavirus vaccination.
The decision on the number of spectators for the Paralympic Games, which starts on August 24, has been postponed until the end of the Olympics.
WHAT ABOUT THE COMPETITION VENUES?
While preparations in Tokyo are in full swing, the authorities of the city of Sapporo stated that at the moment they are not ready to host the Olympic marathon and racewalking competitions due to the lack of key information on the number of participants, the presence of spectators and the coronavirus protocol.
These types of programs have been moved from Tokyo to Sapporo due to the likelihood of extreme heat in the Japanese capital during the summer.
In addition, there are several organized groups protesting against the holding of the competitions – a petition was drawn up to the governor demanding that they be canceled.
There is no preparation yet. We are running out of time. At the moment, in response to our questions, we hear that the decision has not been made and the discussion is still underway.
Without clear rules for the competition, we cannot determine how the city’s medical system will be activated, so we are waiting for information from the organizing committee of the Games as soon as possible, explained Takashi Okugi, city official in charge of the Olympic competition.