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Editorial: Implement thorough safety measures for athletes at Tokyo Paralympics

  • August 19, 2021
  • , The Japan News , 11:08 a.m.
  • English Press
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The Tokyo Paralympics will kick off on Aug. 24 without spectators from the general public at any of the competition venues, as part of measures to deal with the novel coronavirus pandemic. Utmost efforts must be made to conduct the Games safely.


A maximum of about 4,400 athletes from approximately 160 countries and regions are scheduled to participate, and competitions in 22 sports will be held in four prefectures — Tokyo, Chiba, Saitama and Shizuoka.


The spread of the highly contagious delta coronavirus variant in Tokyo has led to an explosive increase in new infection cases, creating a situation more severe than at the start of the Olympics. The areas covered by a state of emergency were also to be expanded.


Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga initially expressed his intention to allow spectators into venues. Under the current circumstances, however, it would be difficult to obtain public understanding of this wish. The decision to hold the Paralympics without spectators was inevitable.


It is regrettable to lose the opportunity to see in person the culmination of athletes’ training and effort, but it is also possible to loudly cheer this sports festival for the disabled through TV screens and other media.


At the Olympics, the lack of cheering from spectators made the breath of the athletes and the sound of their bodies colliding with each other stand out even more. The thrill and excitement can surely be sensed even through the screen.


Although the flow of people around venues can be restrained because there will be no spectators from the general public, more minute anti-infection measures than for the Olympics are essential for the Paralympic athletes, officials and other related people.


Athletes with respiratory and other diseases who are at high risk of becoming seriously ill if they are infected with the virus will participate in the Games. Measures need to be taken in keeping with specific disabilities and competitions, such as thorough disinfection of areas often touched during transportation, wheelchairs and artificial legs.


In the Olympic Games, many domestic contractors who often visited the athletes village and elsewhere tested positive for the coronavirus. Some athletes and others went shopping outside the athletes village. Reflecting on these cases, it is important to once again review coronavirus control measures.


Although the general public will not be allowed to enter the venues, a government-backed school cooperative program will be implemented. Students at schools taking part in the program will be able to watch the competitions at venues.


One purpose of hosting the Tokyo Games was to deepen children’s understanding of the value and diversity of sports by having them watch Olympic and Paralympic competitions in person. The Paralympic Games are particularly significant, as they provide a golden opportunity to foster awareness among children of a symbiotic society.


The Tokyo metropolitan government plans to send students on chartered buses between their schools and competition venues to prevent infections. However, some local governments are considering withdrawing from the program due to concerns over the recent infection situation.


The Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games needs to hold the Paralympics without confusion, while respecting the intentions of local governments, and of the parents and guardians of students.


— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Aug. 19, 2021.

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