Despite public outrage, scepticism from stakeholders, and a state of emergency in Tokyo and other prefectures, organizers insist that the Olympics will take place later this year.
Despite being delayed by a year, the Olympics are set to take place from July 23 to August 8, and the Paralympics from August 24-September 5, despite a state of emergency in Tokyo and several other prefectures until the end of May and 45,000 new coronavirus cases in Japan over the past week.
The Olympic torch relay, which has already been impacted by the pandemic, continues across Japan, and four test events for volleyball, diving, the marathon, and athletics were held.
The Olympic torch relay, which has already been affected by the pandemic, continues its journey across Japan, and four test events for volleyball, diving, the marathon, and athletics were held at the beginning of May.
More than 11,000 athletes from 207 different National Olympic Committees (NOCs) competed in the 2016 Rio Olympics, and more than 7,800 have already qualified to compete in Tokyo.
Vaccine distribution may have increased, but assembling the world’s best athletes for the world’s largest sporting event will be a logistical nightmare.
Given the strict health and safety measures in place, this Olympics will undoubtedly be unlike any other.
In April, organizers released the second version of a playbook outlining a series of Covid-19 protocols that will include “a range of measures to enable the Games to be staged taking into account the evolution of Covid-19 in Japan and worldwide,” with “every single Games participant having a clear role to play to ensure their safety.”
Among these are detailed testing procedures, such as giving all participants two Covid-19 tests before entering Japan and testing athletes and those in close proximity every day after their arrival.
If an athlete returns a positive test, they must isolate and are not permitted to compete, but a second test from the same sample will be performed if the first test is positive or unclear.
Participants will also be required to download two apps for health reporting and contact tracing while in Japan, and athletes will be given a Samsung smartphone upon arrival at the Olympic and Paralympic villages to aid in the recording of health information.
Overseas spectators have already been barred from attending the Olympics and Paralympics, and a decision on whether domestic spectators will be allowed to attend is expected in June.
Athletes and officials have been instructed to wear masks at all times – except when eating, drinking, sleeping, training, or competing, according to the playbook – and to limit physical interaction.
Athletes have been instructed not to visit tourist areas, shops, restaurants, bars, or gyms, and to use dedicated Games vehicles rather than public transportation. They must eat all of their meals in designated areas.
Athletes are also instructed to leave Japan within 48 hours of finishing their competition.
The final version of the playbook, which will provide a better understanding of how the Games will work, is expected in June.
Vaccines are seen as part of the Olympic “toolbox” of countermeasures, and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) says it is working with countries to encourage and assist all athletes, officials, and stakeholders in getting vaccinated.
A vaccine, on the other hand, will not be required to compete in the Games.
Japan’s vaccine rollout has been much slower than that of other countries. As of May 10, it had administered 4.4 million vaccine doses to its 126 million-person population.
The organizers face a challenge in that countries around the world have varying levels of access to vaccines. Some athletes, including sprinter Yohan Blake, have expressed reservations about getting vaccinated.
Organizers have been quick to dispel rumours that the Games will be cancelled, insisting that they will go ahead as planned.
According to Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, the decision to cancel the Games is made by the IOC, not the Japanese government or the local organizing committee.
Another postponement, according to IOC official Dick Pound, would be prohibitively expensive for Japan and logistically impossible, especially given that the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics are now less than a year away.
The IOC is a non-profit organization that distributes approximately $3.4 million per day to athletes and sporting organizations all over the world.
The Olympics account for a significant portion of the IOC’s total revenue; for example, between 2013 and 2016 – a period spanning the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics – the IOC generated $5.7 billion.
Because broadcasting rights account for nearly 75 per cent of the IOC’s funding, the Tokyo Games would generate much-needed revenue even if no fans attended, whereas a cancellation would be disastrously costly.
The Games have only been cancelled three times before, in 1916, 1940, and 1944, all due to world wars.