The opening ceremonies for the Tokyo Olympics are only about 50 days away, and despite Japan’s fight against a fourth wave of COVID-19, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee firmly believe the Games will take place become.
Here everything stands before the turbulent weeks leading up to the postponed Olympic Games.
What are the COVID-19 rates in Japan?
To date, Japan has reported about 750,000 COVID cases and more than 13,000 deaths, at a rate of about 600 cases per 100,000 people. (By comparison, the US ranks first in the world with 33.3 million reported cases, nearly 600,000 deaths, and a rate of over 10,000 cases per 100,000 population.)
Japan’s cases are now declining after spiking in mid-May, with more than 7,000 new cases reported daily. 3,061 confirmed cases were reported on Thursday.
Tokyo and nine other prefectures were placed in a state of emergency in mid-April. These measures were originally supposed to last until mid-May, but Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has extended these restrictions further, most recently until June 20.
“The number of newly infected nationwide has been falling since the middle of this month,” Suga said at a press conference on May 28. “However, the situation is still unpredictable.”
These new measures – an escalation of the previous “quasi-emergency measures” – have resulted in restaurants and bars being closed and sporting events held with a maximum of 5,000 spectators. Despite these contingency protocols, IOC Vice President John Coates said the Games would continue even if Tokyo were to maintain the same restrictions. “We successfully saw five sports hold their testing events during the state of emergency,” Coates said.
“All of the plans we have to protect the safety of athletes and the people of Japan are based on the worst of circumstances, so the answer is absolutely yes.” [the Games can go ahead]. “
What are the Japanese views?
There are warnings from the experts. Tokyo Medical Association chairman Haruo Ozaki said on his Facebook page that in his position as “medical director, I have to say that it is really difficult to hold the games.” An editorial in the British Medical Journal Entitled “Rethink This Summer’s Olympic and Paralympic Games,” it says, “While the determination is encouraging, there is a lack of transparency about the benefits and risks, and mass international events like Tokyo 2020 are still neither safe nor protected.”
And the public is less than convinced that the Games should take place. The latest polls show that 80% are in favor of postponing or canceling the Olympics, while a petition to cancel the Games, launched by lawyer Kenji Utsunomiya, has over 400,000 signatures.
Are spectators allowed to participate?
Foreign visitors and fans from overseas have already been banned from participating in the Olympics, and the final decision will be made by organizers in June on whether to allow local spectators to attend the events.
The decision to ban foreign viewers affects around 630,000 ticket holders, while the Tokyo Organizing Committee has reduced the number of non-competing accreditations for those hoping to visit. Previously, the organizing committee expected 90,000 visitors from abroad, even without foreign spectators.
Japan currently expects 59,000 visitors (including the media, athletes, broadcasters, coaches, officials and athletics representatives) for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
What happens to the torch relay?
The short answer: it is now in its fifth diversion. In mid-April, the relay was removed from Osaka’s public streets and instead held in the cordoned-off Expo ’70 Memorial Park. In the meantime, other prefectures have followed suit, the season largely takes place without spectators.
By June 1, the season had passed through 32 of the 47 Japanese prefectures, with Olympic bronze medal swimmer Aye Terakawa in Osaka, astronaut Kimiya Yui a torchbearer in Saku and 109-year-old Shigeko Kagawa one of the participants in Nara. are .
What about the test events?
The test event programs entitled “Ready, Steady, Tokyo” resumed on April 3rd after last year’s postponement. The first event back was wheelchair rugby at the Yoyogi National Stadium with around 100 participants. A number of COVID-19 prevention measures have been tested, including disinfecting the wheels of the chairs. It was the first of 18 planned events in the run-up to the reorganized Olympic Games.
Other events did not go as planned. On April 1st, the International Swimming Federation (FINA) canceled the Diving World Cup, a qualifying event for the Olympic Games taking place in Tokyo in mid-April. FINA cited safety concerns and the quarantine protocol change that would affect athletes.
Then it was postponed to the beginning of May and a total of 225 divers from 46 countries attended the Tokyo Aquatics Center. The athletes operated under strict restrictions, restricting social interaction and enforcing distancing.
“We’re not allowed to leave our rooms where you have to stay … no outside air, no human interaction,” American diver Sarah Bacon told Reuters. “But we made it work.”
Since that shaky start, the test events have gone well. At the end of April, his first athletics meeting was held at the Tokyo Olympic Stadium, with 420 athletes taking part in a test event, including US sprinter Justin Gatlin.
The Tokyo Organizing Committee reports that only one COVID case was found during testing events as of late April.
Are the countries getting nervous?
The only country to have announced its withdrawal from the Olympics so far is North Korea, which on April 6 said it would not participate “to protect players from the global public health crisis caused by COVID-19” . The announcement came amid growing political tensions between the two countries after North Korea launched two ballistic missiles off its east coast in March.
South Korea issued a statement saying the country had hoped the Olympics this year would be an opportunity to “promote peace and reconciliation between the two Koreas” before bidding for the Olympics together 2032 is planned.
With North Korea’s withdrawal, there were concerns that it could create a ripple effect from countries withdrawing from the Olympics. But so far North Korea is the only withdrawal. Although the US has issued a travel warning against visiting Japan, USOPC will still send its athletes to Tokyo.
Are athletes vaccinated in good time?
Japan’s vaccination program got off to a slow start, with less than 5% of the population vaccinated by mid-May. Since May 24th, however, a mass vaccination program has gained in importance, with the aim of vaccinating all 36 million residents aged 65 and over by the end of July.
On May 6, vaccine developers Pfizer and BioNTech announced they would be donating cans to vaccinate athletes and officials preparing for the Olympics.
“This vaccine donation is another instrument in our catalog of measures to make the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo safe and protected for all participants and to show solidarity with our gracious Japanese hosts,” said IOC President Thomas Bach.
“We invite the athletes and delegations participating in the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games to lead by example and, if possible, to accept the vaccine.”
Which rules do athletes have to observe?
The newest “Playbook“(a document detailing how the Games are played and the rules that participants, officials and other travelers in Japan must follow) was released on April 28th.
The athletes will operate in biosafe bladders and will be required to record two negative COVID-19 tests prior to their arrival. Athletes are not allowed to use public transport or visit restaurants and must not arrive more than five days before the competition and leave no later than two days after the end of the competition. However, athletes do not need to be quarantined upon arrival. While World Athletics President Sebastian Coe has expressed his confidence Since these protocols were robust enough to prevent the spread of COVID, he admitted the experience will be “sterile” for the athletes.