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Olympic organisers to outline plans of staging Tokyo Games amid pandemic

Major update: Tokyo Olympic organisers and the International Olympic Committee are set to unveil plans this week about how they will stage the Games amid the pandemic

Tokyo Olympic organisers and the International Olympic Committee are set to unveil new plans this week about how they will stage the Games amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The roll-out of the second edition of the so-called "Playbooks" — an IOC guidebook explaining how the Games can be staged — will outline how an expected 15,400 Olympic and Paralympic athletes can compete in Japan when the Games commence on July 23.

Within the updated plans, expected to be sent out to athletes tomorrow and finalised in June, organisers are set to announce daily testing for athletes as well as being tested on arrival in Japan. But they are expected to drop a 14-day quarantine requirement, allowing athletes to train when they arrive before the Games.

Athletes will be required to stay within a “bubble” consisting of the Olympic Village on Tokyo Bay, and venues and training areas.

The new plans comes as Tokyo, Osaka and several other areas have been placed under a third state of emergency as coronavirus cases surge.

The new restrictions, under the Japanese central government deceleration will last for 17 days through to May 11, as the country attempts to slow infections during the upcoming Golden Week holidays of late April and early May.

Japan has had a total of 562,141 confirmed cases of coronavirus leading to 9,913 deaths throughout the pandemic, according to data compiled by worldometers.

Recent spikes have the country averaging about 4,500 new daily infections, the country’s highest levels of infection since a January wave. Health officials have attributed reports of new variants for the rapid rise in new cases.

While, the new measures are not as restrictive as the country has used in the past, stopping short of a full lockdown, limits have been imposed on restaurants and other businesses.

While a lot can change in the three months running up to the opening ceremony of the Olympics, the timing of the new declaration is significant for a number of reasons.

Tokyo is scheduled to host the final Olympic qualifying event for diving from May 1 to 6. Some countries, including Australia, have already announced that they have withdrawn from the event.

The other significant upcoming event is the decision on how many spectators may be allowed into Olympic venues. While the organisers have already confirmed that foreign spectators will not be permitted, a decision on domestic spectators has yet to be confirmed.

Originally, a decision was set to be announced by the end of this month; however, Seiko Hashimoto, the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee president, conceded yesterday that any final announcement may be postponed until as late as June.

Meanwhile, Taro Kono, the minister in charge of vaccination in Japan, suggested this month that empty venues was a probable option.

Amid the continued uncertainty, public resistance to the Olympics in Japan is still running high with 80 per cent opposed according to recent polls.

A big reason behind the pessimism is the nation’s slow roll-out of vaccinations, raising serious questions about its preparedness to host the Games.

To date, only 1.3 per cent of Japan’s population has received at least one of two doses, compared with about 40 per cent in the United States and 49 per cent in Britain, according to Our World in Data.

Neighbouring South Korea, which has faced widespread criticism for a slow vaccine uptake, has vaccinated more than 4 per cent of its population.

Japan’s health ministry has to date approved only the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, leaving the country dependent on imports from the European Union until alternative vaccines such as AstraZeneca and Moderna are approved.

The roll-out is now too far behind to have any impact on the Olympics, with much of Japan’s population unlikely to be protected by the time tens of thousands of athletes, media, officials and other Games-related staff begin arriving in Tokyo. That has led to health officials in the country urging plans to hold the Games to be “reconsidered as a matter of urgency”.

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Published April 27, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated April 26, 2021 at 8:47 pm)

Olympic organisers to outline plans of staging Tokyo Games amid pandemic

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