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Editorial: Athletes getting a raw deal as Games pass midway point

  • August 2, 2021
  • , The Asahi Shimbun , 1:44 p.m.
  • English Press
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The Tokyo Olympics have passed the halfway point.


In the first half of the mammoth international sporting event, Japanese athletes grabbed the spotlight with remarkable performances, thanks in part to the home advantage. But like any competitive sport, there cannot be winners without losers.


We earnestly hope that athletes taking part in the Summer Games, irrespective of their nationalities or other attributes, will be able to excel in the second half.


The question is whether organizers are offering an environment that allows athletes to compete in tip-top physical and mental form.


Many participants were unable to fully prepare for the Olympics due to COVID-19 concerns. This would seem to explain some of the relatively unimpressive records to date. There have also been cases of athletes forced to suspend training just prior to competitions after they were identified as a close contact.


The pandemic led some scheduled trials to be canceled and prevented a number of qualified athletes from participating in the Games. It cannot be said that all contenders have faced fair and equal opportunities.


All possible efforts must be made to ensure that no more athletes are forced to face restrictions on their activities due to factors beyond their control.


A total of 241 people associated with the Olympics tested positive for the novel coronavirus in July.


Fortunately, a major outbreak has not occurred within the Olympic Village. Still, the figure for infections is not so small that it can be ignored.


Six of the volunteers who regularly come into close contact with athletes had tested positive as of July 31, according to organizers. This prompted opposition parties to question whether volunteers are being regularly tested as required.


But neither the organizing committee nor the government has offered any detailed explanation to erase that suspicion. Instead, they seem intent on limiting damage to their own credibility. In short, they have failed to pay sincere attention to the voices of others.


Organizers promised to prevent the virus from being brought into or out of Japan. But has that promise been kept and to what extent?


A well-designed code of conduct is worthless if it is not observed. It seems that many of the conditions for holding the event, including the enforcement of penalties for violations of the rules, have gone by the wayside.


With regard to concerns about the extreme summer heat in Tokyo, organizers abruptly decided to start tennis matches later in the day in response to protests from tennis players. The forced schedule change is due simply to bad planning.


Organizers should consider additional measures to protect athletes in other sports from heatstroke, such as introducing hydration and shower breaks so competitors can cool down.


It is not easy to distinguish symptoms of heatstroke from those of COVID-19. Growing cases of heatstroke are causing confusion among emergency care and medical workers. There is no denying that allowing spectators in venues could have created an even more dire situation.


There have been other glitches since the start that raised questions about the management ability and commitment to sustainability Tokyo cited in its bid to host the Games. These include delays and errors in operations of dedicated buses to transport athletes and officials and vast numbers of lunch boxes being discarded due to ordering errors.


Organizers need to be ready to face constant tests of their commitment to fulfill their responsibilities until the very end of the event.


–The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 1

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