TOKYO – Remember the word: manual.
This is the rule book that IOC and Tokyo organizers are due to launch next week to explain how 15,400 Olympic and Paralympic athletes and tens of thousands more will try to safely enter Japan when the Olympics begin in less than six months.
Organizers and the International Olympic Committee are finally making their plans public, hoping to repel reports that the Olympics will be canceled, with Tokyo and much of Japan still in a state of emergency with COVID-19 cases on the rise.
The launch at the Olympic headquarters in Switzerland is scheduled for February 4, with Tokyo likely to present on February 5.
“We created four different scenarios, one that had travel restrictions, groups – for one where the pandemic was almost over,” explained Lucia Montanarella, head of IOC media operations, on Tuesday in a panel discussion conducted by International Sports Press Association.
“The current scenario is very similar to what we created, with the pandemic still between us and some countries being able to contain it, others not.”
The manual will be on how to create safe bubbles in Tokyo and will be updated with changing protocols as the July 23 opening approaches. The Paralympic Games are scheduled to start on August 24th.
Athletes and those traveling to Japan – coaches, judges, media, announcers, VIPs – are likely to face some period of self-quarantine before leaving home. This will be followed by tests at the airport, tests on arrival in Japan and frequent tests for those staying in the Athletes’ Village next to Tokyo Bay.
“We know that we face a great challenge: creating a bubble for all athletes,” said Montanarella. “It is one thing to create a bubble for 200 athletes in just one sport, and quite another to create a bubble for thousands of athletes from different sports.”
One of the main unanswered questions involves fans. How many fans will be allowed in the venues? Will overseas fans be allowed?
Olympics Minister Seiko Hashimoto said on Tuesday that the decision would be announced “in the spring”. Fewer fans mean more costs for Japan. The local organizing committee expected to receive $ 800 million from ticket sales. Any deficiency will have to be compensated by Japanese government entities.
Craig Spence, spokesman for the International Paralympic Committee, said organizers should seek support from the Japanese public amid surveys showing that 80% of respondents think the Olympics should be canceled or postponed.
“If you are an athlete or an interested party, you will not be able to get on a plane until you provide a negative test,” Spence told the Associated Press. “When you see the amount of tests that we are going to do [on site], this should reassure people. “
IOC President Thomas Bach, who said vaccines are not “mandatory”, is still pushing for all participants to be vaccinated. The World Health Organization said earlier this week that Olympic athletes should not be a priority ahead of health professionals, the elderly and the vulnerable.
The IOC had its high-level members speak publicly.
IOC member Sebastian Coe was on Japanese television on Wednesday, and IOC member Dick Pound suggested last week that “the most realistic way to move forward” is to prioritize athletes. He received strong opposition.
The IOC receives almost 75% of its revenue from the sale of broadcasting rights. The Tokyo Olympics can be worth $ 2 billion to $ 3 billion in rights revenue, making Japan’s games a financial imperative – even if it becomes an exclusively television event.
“It is a difficult project with a series of demands,” IOC executive board member Gerardo Werthein told the Argentine news site Infobae. “Circumstances compel us to do these things and it is a big challenge.”
Japan has more than 5,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19, but its health system is under stress with the increase in deaths and new cases. The vaccine is expected to be launched next month, but in late spring for a large part of the general public.
The president of the Japanese Medical Association made a warning last week when asked about the Olympics and possible patients from abroad.
“Many people will come from abroad, and that is a huge number, even with only athletes,” said Dr. Toshio Nakagawa. “In that situation, if patients with coronavirus appear among them while a collapse of the medical system is happening and spreading, they will not be able to accept them. Unless a miracle happens, such as the sudden release of the vaccine or the suddenly found cure, we are not able to accept more patients. “