To receive athletes and spectators from abroad, it is essential to take every possible measure to reduce the risk of infections with the novel coronavirus.
For the opening of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games scheduled for next summer, the central government, the Tokyo metropolitan government and the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games have held their first meeting to discuss ways of fighting the spread of the coronavirus. They decided to take specific measures that focus on prevention against the virus at airports, the management of competition venues and other facilities, and securing medical systems.
They intend to compile an interim report by the end of the year. The question is whether they will be able to secure the effectiveness of the steps they will take and win the understanding of the public.
They are said to consider easing restrictions on the entry of delegations of foreign athletes to Japan. They plan to exempt athletes and relevant officials from the requirement in principle for people entering Japan to quarantine themselves for 14 days. The move is aimed at creating an environment in which athletes can easily train after arriving in Japan.
To implement the steps, foreign athletes and officials will be required to be tested for the virus before departing from their country and submit an action plan after they come to Japan. Banning athletes and officials from moving to places other than hotels and training facilities is also being taken into consideration.
For the Tokyo Olympics, the foreign athlete delegations are expected to consist of more than 10,000 people entering the country. In terms of reducing the risk of infections, it is inevitable to limit the range of movement of athlete delegations. It is also worth considering conducting regular testing after they enter Japan.
The government and the organizing committee must seek cooperation from other governments and international sports organizations. Many areas have been set as training camps and will take in foreign athletes. Coordination with local governments that are hosting teams is also urgent.
The estimation is that 9 million people will come to Japan to watch the Olympics. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has cited reducing the number of spectators as one of the challenges to be addressed. This can be a realistic option to avoid crowded situations.
If the coronavirus pandemic continues in Japan, foreign athletes and spectators will hesitate to come. In order to hold a safe Olympics, the containment of the spread of infections is the major prerequisite.
Some countries cannot hold competitions to select national team members for some of the sports with the spread of the coronavirus continuing. It is vital to closely determine the situation in each country.
Simplifying the Games is also an important issue. The cost of holding the Olympic Games had been expected at ¥1.35 trillion. However, due to the postponement, the first in history, additional expenses of several hundreds of billions of yen will be needed. It is hoped that the costs will be decreased.
The organizing committee is discussing ways of simplifying the welcoming ceremony for IOC officials and others, and limiting the number of executives from sports organizations and other related people. It is reasonable to review excessive hospitality by reducing transportation and security costs.
The Japan national badminton team has started its training camp for the Olympics. An international triathlon competition has started in Germany and Japanese athletes are also taking part in the event. To support athletes’ activities, it is important to make nationwide efforts to present the path toward holding the Olympic Games.
— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Sept. 8, 2020.