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Editorial: Preventing infections for a safe Tokyo Olympics should be the goal

Will it be possible to contain novel coronavirus infections and manage to hold the event safely? The key will be to drastically strengthen border controls.

 

The opening of the Tokyo Olympics, which were postponed to next summer, is one year away. The Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games reported to the International Olympic Committee’s general meeting online about the venues and competition schedule.

 

Following the plan that was in place for this summer, 339 events in 33 sports, the most in Olympic Games history, will be held across 42 venues. The marathon and race walk events will be held in Sapporo as a measure against the heat.

 

Maintaining the schedule and venues is aimed at minimizing the impact on transportation, security and other aspects of operations of the Olympics. It will likely be easy for athletes to practice in such a setting.

 

It is hoped that officials involved in the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics will carefully prepare for the events so that these global sport festivals can be held with peace of mind.

 

In Japan, infections have spread again, mainly in Tokyo. It is still raging in the United States and emerging economies as well.

 

The final decision on whether to hold the Olympics will be made by the IOC. The government, the organizing committee and the Tokyo metropolitan government intend to start discussions on measures to prevent the spread of the virus in autumn this year and present a direction for the measures within the year.

 

Even if it is difficult to completely bring the infections under control, it is important to take measures to prevent infections to a certain extent so that the Olympic Games can be held.

 

The organizing committee plans to simplify the Games. The scale of related events, such as torch relays, will inevitably be reduced.

 

It is vital to work out concrete plans taking into account the safety of athletes from Japan and overseas, and the residents of areas that will host the training camps for these athletes, as well as hammering out details to simplify the Games as soon as possible. The government must strengthen preparedness for preventing virus infections and providing medical services.

 

Overseas delegations of athletes and officials will total 15,000 people. There are difficult issues, such as how to accept athletes and others from countries where the coronavirus might still be spreading.

 

It is indispensable to conduct PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests on foreign athletes not only at the time of entry, but also on a regular basis. During the Games, it is important for medical staff to be stationed at competition venues among other places.

 

IOC President Thomas Bach called for limiting the number of spectators as an issue to be addressed. In limiting the number of spectators, refunds of sold tickets could become a problem. There are many within the government and the organizing committee who are concerned about a drop in revenue.

 

It is necessary to give top priority to the safety of spectators before making a decision. It is vital to determine the current situation of virus infections and the testing system.

 

The additional costs due to the postponement are expected to reach several hundreds of billions of yen. The government, the organizing committee and the metropolitan government are required to cooperate in sharing the costs. They should also ask the IOC to shoulder some of the burden.

 

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on July 23, 2020.

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