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Tokyo Olympics must be held at ‘any cost’, says Japanese minister

Seiko Hashimoto says country is planning for event next year even though a widely available vaccine is unlikely

A man wearing a protective face mask walks past an Olympic Rings monument near the national stadium, the main venue of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

 

September 8, 2020

The Tokyo Olympics must be held “at any cost”, Japan’s Games minister, Seiko Hashimoto, has said, as organisers continue to weigh up options for staging a “post-pandemic” celebration of sport in the city next summer.

“Everyone involved with the Games is working together to prepare, and the athletes are also making considerable efforts towards next year,” Hashimoto told reporters on Tuesday.

The former Olympian suggested the priority had shifted from planning for the “complete Games” once favoured by the outgoing prime minister, Shinzo Abe, towards an event that would enable athletes to compete regardless of the status of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I think we have to hold the Games at any cost,” she said. “I want to concentrate all our efforts on measures against the coronavirus.”

There is also a growing belief within national olympic committees that the Games will go ahead following lengthy discussions over the summer about how they can be staged safely. The Guardian understands that proposals under discussion include:

  • Potentially keeping athletes in preparation camps for longer before they move into the Olympic village, enabling them to be tested regularly for Covid-19 and cleared before competing.
  • Asking athletes to leave the athletes’ village immediately after they have competed, rather than stay until after the closing ceremony as is traditional.
  • Having reduced capacities in stadiums observing social distancing rules.

However, suggestions that there could be a downsized Olympics, with fewer athletes and staff, are being downplayed by senior sources.

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics were postponed in March as the coronavirus began its rampage through Europe, the US, Brazil, India and other parts of the world.

With health experts warning that a vaccine is unlikely to be widely available by the time the opening ceremony is due to take place on 23 July 2021, a task force of organisers, national and local government officials and health experts met for the first time last week to consider anti-virus measures.

The group, which is expected to release an interim report at the end of the year, is sifting through more than 200 proposals on how best to prevent an Olympic-related outbreak while enabling around 11,000 athletes from more than 200 countries to travel to Japan.

“While living with the coronavirus, we need to make sure that athletes can perform at their best and audiences enjoy the Games safely,” the deputy chief cabinet secretary, Kazuhiro Sugita, said at the meeting. “To achieve that, we will adjust border controls, testing and medical systems and the operations of the venues.”

Last week, the Tokyo chief executive, Toshiro Muto, insisted the Games could be held even if a vaccine was not available.

“It’s not a prerequisite,” he said. “It’s not a condition for the delivery of the Tokyo 2020 Games. A vaccine is not a requirement. Of course, if vaccines are developed, we’ll really appreciate it. And for Tokyo 2020 that would be great.”

While the delayed start of domestic and international sports competitions show it is possible to reduce the risks to athletes, it will be harder to ensure the safety of huge numbers of spectators from overseas.

“As far as spectators, we don’t have any conditions yet, but we’d like to avoid no spectators,” Muto said.

The comments from Hashimoto, who represented her country in speed skating and track cycling, echo those made on Monday by John Coates, vice president of the International Olympic Committee [IOC]. He said the event would go ahead next summer “with or without Covid”.

“The Games were going to be … the ‘reconstruction Games’ after the devastation of the tsunami,” Coates said, referring to the disaster that struck north-east Japan in 2011.

“Now very much these will be the Games that conquered Covid, the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Public support is waning in Japan, however, with two-thirds of respondents to a poll in July saying they would prefer the Olympics to be postponed a second time – an option organisers and the IOC have ruled out – or cancelled.

Organisers said they had been encouraged to see international sports events such as the US Open tennis and the Tour de France go ahead in the midst of the pandemic, and by reports that Japan’s government is considering allowing more fans into stadiums to watch domestic baseball and football matches.

“This has been a big, big encouragement for the staff at Tokyo 2020,” organising committee spokesman Masa Takaya told reporters on Tuesday. “We feel that is another step towards seeing sports in action in our society.”

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2020/sep/08/tokyo-olympics-must-be-held-at-any-cost-says-japanese-minister?fbclid=IwAR0Ot_OQz-lfiMe3hjrCVRFjhT52hid2mE5gdQr19xTHKWW2zkSYWxk8FSA

September 13, 2020 Posted by | Japan | | Leave a comment

IOC Vice President Says 2021 Tokyo Olympics Will Happen

September 7, 2020

The Tokyo Summer Olympics are taking place next year regardless of the coronavirus pandemic, according to International Olympic Committee Vice President John Coates.

“It will take place with or without COVID. The Games will start on July 23 next year,” Coates told news agency AFP on Monday, according to multiple outlets.

“The Games were going to be, their theme, the Reconstruction Games after the devastation of the tsunami,” he added, referring to the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in 2011. “Now very much these will be the Games that conquered COVID, the light at the end of the tunnel.”

In late March, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that the Summer Games would be rescheduled for the same time slot next year due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

The Olympics will now be held from July 23 through August 8, 2021.

There is still much uncertainty regarding the games, however. In June, various Japanese media sources published stories indicating that the Olympics will be “downsized,” “simplified” or “very different.”

Officials have not yet announced any specific modifications, but the reports indicated that athletes may face quarantines and coronavirus testing and seating could be reduced.

Following the published reports, Tokyo Olympics spokesman Masa Takaya appeared in an online news conference but did not confirm any of the leaked information about downsizing.

He did, however, address concerns about reducing the amount of seating, as millions of tickets have already been sold. “We want to brush away these concerns,” Takaya said, speaking to ticket holders.

“We understand that countermeasures for COVID-19 next year, particularly during games time, is one of the biggest things to address in preparing for the games next year,” he added. “But once again these countermeasures will be discussed in more depth from this autumn onward.”

Adam Rippon Says 2020 Winter Olympians Are ‘Grieving’ Amid Postponement

Figure skater Adam Rippon won a bronze medal in the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang

Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto said that costs must be cut for the rescheduled games, but added that ensuring athletes’ safety may lead to higher expenses.

“Unless safety and security are ensured, there will be uncertainty for the athletes-first point of view,” she said, according to the Associated Press. “We must study measures including virus testing in order to ensure safety and security.”

The delay marks only the fourth time in modern Olympic history that the games have been disrupted.

https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/ioc-vice-president-says-2021-155509392.html

September 13, 2020 Posted by | Japan | | Leave a comment

Coronavirus question mark still hangs over Tokyo Olympics in 2021

V‚½‚ȃJƒEƒ“ƒgƒ_ƒEƒ“A passerby takes photos of a countdown clock in front of Tokyo Station on Monday showing the adjusted days and time for the start of the postponed Tokyo Olympic Games, which are now set to begin on July 23, 2021.

 

March 31, 2020

Although this summer’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics were postponed by about a year due to the new coronavirus pandemic, the lingering question is whether the global health crisis will be under control by then.

The capital is facing a mounting challenge following the first Olympic postponement in history, with local organizers confronted with the task of reworking the preparations of the last six years.

The International Olympic Committee and the local organizers agreed Monday that the Tokyo Olympics, originally set to open on July 24 this year, will run between July 23 and Aug. 8, 2021, followed by the Paralympics from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5.

The IOC has stressed the importance of holding the Tokyo Games in 2021, with President Thomas Bach saying the sporting event can be a “celebration of humankind after having overcome the unprecedented challenge of the coronavirus.”

However, even as the organizers try to settle one problem after another, ranging from securing venues and lodging for athletes and officials, gathering volunteers and figuring out how to shoulder the additional costs, the key to hosting a successful Tokyo Games is something they cannot control by themselves.

On March 24, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Bach agreed to hold the Tokyo Olympics in the summer of 2021 at the latest after they were pressured by athletes to make changes to the schedule to prevent a further spread of the coronavirus and to provide them a chance to prepare fully.

Yoshiro Mori, president of the Tokyo Organising Committee, said at a press conference shortly after the agreement was reached that the virus is their “top concern” but that he expects the situation will change due to medical advancements.

Kazuhiro Tateda, who heads the Japanese Association for Infectious Diseases, says whether infections of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, could be drastically curtailed by next summer is still unknown, but predicts the pace of the spread will decelerate.

“The new coronavirus has been spreading at a very rapid pace,” Tateda said. “In the next few months, the virus will spread in both the northern and southern hemispheres. If those people who recovered become immune to the virus, we can say that the outbreak will settle down.”

“But we can’t tell what the situation is like in a year,” he said.

Speaking at the press conference with Mori, the organizing committee’s CEO, Toshiro Muto, said a one-year postponement was a “reasonable” decision at a time when no health experts can say for sure when the pandemic will end.

The March 24 decision came just two days before the initial start of the 121-day torch relay in Japan and exactly four months ahead of the opening of the Olympics.

It was also made on the day Tokyo overtook Hokkaido as the region with the most infections.

“If I’m asked whether the coronavirus (situation) settles in the summer of next year, I can’t say that it will be absolutely fine,” Muto said. “But if something like that happens, not only Japan but also the rest of the world will be in a devastating situation. I predict people to come up with new drugs if that’s the case.”

Tateda, a member of the government’s panel of experts, said the organizers made a “rational” choice, but they need to monitor the situation throughout their preparation period and make changes to the schedule if necessary.

Meanwhile, Koji Wada, a professor at the International University of Health and Welfare, says staging the Olympics next summer could be “difficult,” given that the pneumonia-causing virus has spread to all of the world’s seven continents except Antarctica since it broke out in China late last year.

“I think it’s a little too optimistic to assume that many people will become immune to the virus in one year and three months and be able to travel back and forth,” he said in a recent interview.

“Two years might have been better, but barely possible. Even then, there will be cases of infections around the world, and the games will have to go ahead under tough circumstances,” he said.

Wada said staging the Olympics and Paralympics will be different from any other event because a huge number of athletes and spectators from all over the world will gather, and the development of vaccinations and medications will be unlikely in a year.

“It is difficult to place countermeasures against infections to athletes,” he said. “What are they going to do with athletes who come from countries that still have cases of infection? People will suggest putting them under quarantine for about two weeks, but what would happen if that athlete tests positive?”

The European Union’s disease control body released a report on March 25 saying that the summer heat and humidity will be unlikely to prevent the virus from spreading, adding there is no evidence that COVID-19 displays a marked seasonality.

“Based on preliminary analyses of the COVID-19 outbreak in China and other countries, high reproductive numbers were observed not only in dry and cold districts but also in tropical districts with high absolute humidity, such as Guangxi (China) and Singapore,” the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said in the report.

Wada warns that holding the Summer Games when the virus situation is not under control will take away from the fairness of the sporting extravaganza.

In particular, it would be difficult for athletes competing in contact sports, such as wrestling and judo.

The Tokyo Games are not the first games to be threatened by global health issues.

The 2010 Vancouver Winter Games were held following the outbreak of swine flu the previous year, while the previous Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro were held amid fears over the mosquito-transmitted Zika virus.

However, Wada said the new virus is not like any other, characterizing it as “nothing we have experienced in recent history.”

“The coronavirus is very difficult compared to other viruses because it spreads through people who do not show symptoms. And since none of us are immune to it, it can spread all over the world,” he said.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/03/31/general/coronavirus-question-mark-tokyo-olympics/?fbclid=IwAR3fDDJoy-D8vX_G2NqF6LQ5VpS9XqBbrXp1rYj4_3n5dCwo5LXhqTceD44#.XoPgzXLgqUk

April 6, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics: New dates confirmed for 2021

_111474685_gettyimages-1208605047Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori (centre, at table) made the announcement at a news conference on Monday

 

30 March 2020

The Tokyo Olympic Games will start on 23 July, 2021 and run to 8 August after being postponed for a year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) executive board met on Monday to make the decision.

The Olympics will still be called Tokyo 2020 despite taking place in 2021.

The Paralympic Games, originally due to start on 24 August, 2020, will now take place between 24 August and 5 September, 2021.

IOC president Thomas Bach said: “I am confident that, working together with the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the Japanese Government and all our stakeholders, we can master this unprecedented challenge.

“Humankind currently finds itself in a dark tunnel. These Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 can be a light at the end of this tunnel.”

International Paralympic Committee president Andrew Parsons added: “When the Paralympic Games do take place in Tokyo next year, they will be an extra-special display of humanity uniting as one, a global celebration of human resilience and a sensational showcase of sport.

“With the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games 512 days away, the priority for all those involved in the Paralympic movement must be to focus on staying safe with their friends and family during this unprecedented and difficult time.”

If that is moved back exactly a year it would clash with the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham which is set to take place between 27 July and 7 August.

“We support the new 2021 dates for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. This gives our athletes the time they need to get back into training and competition,” World Athletics said in a statement.

“Everyone needs to be flexible and compromise and to that end we are now working with the organisers of the World Athletics Championships in Oregon on new dates in 2022.

“We are also in discussions with the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) and the European Championships.”

Chief executive of the CGC David Grevemberg said his organisation is “fully committed to hosting a successful Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, during 2022”.

He added: “Over the coming days, we will continue to work collaboratively with our international federation partners to ensure the XXII Commonwealth Games maintains its position and stature on the global sporting calendar.”

Olympic organisers hope the delay will allow sufficient time to finish the qualification process which will follow the same mitigation measures planned for 2020.

It has previously been confirmed that all athletes already qualified and quota places already assigned will remain unchanged.

Purchased tickets would be valid for rescheduled events or a refund could be requested when the new dates were set, organisers previously confirmed.

On 24 March, Japan’s Prime Minister Abe Shinzo said the Games would be held in their “complete form” and no later than summer 2021.

Tokyo 2020 organising committee president Yoshiro Mori said he had proposed the 23 July to 8 August timeframe to the IOC, and that Bach had agreed, following consultations with the international sports federations.

“A certain amount of time is required for the selection and qualification of athletes and for their training and preparation, and the consensus was that staging the rescheduled Games during the summer vacation in Japan would be preferable,” Mori said.

“In terms of transport, arranging volunteers and the provision of tickets for those in Japan and overseas, as well as allowing for the Covid-19 situation, we think that it would be better to reschedule the Games to one year later than planned, in the summer of 2021.”

It is the first time in the Olympic Games’ 124-year modern history that they have been delayed, though they were cancelled altogether in 1916 because of World War One and again in 1940 and 1944 for World War Two. Cold War boycotts affected the summer Games in Moscow and Los Angeles in 1980 and 1984 respectively.

BPA “praises speed” of decision

The British Paralympic Association (BPA) has “praised the speed” with which the Tokyo 2020 Games have been rescheduled and hopes it will give athletes the “certainty they need to refocus on achieving their goals”.

Mike Sharrock, chief executive of the BPA, said: “”We recognise many challenges still lie ahead in the battle with the global Covid-19 pandemic and athletes will not be able to return to their training schedules for some time yet.

“The clear priority now is stemming this public health crisis and ensuring people follow the Government advice to stay safe and well.”

Sharrock added he believes Tokyo 2020 “has the potential to be the biggest and best Paralympics in history”.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/amp/olympics/52091224?__twitter_impression=true&fbclid=IwAR3S3H025anfAA1-br0-j33e3w8kmdSWEJP8hOjGDDtQ3s8yckRjM7EFZK8

 

April 6, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment