Already postponed for a year, the Olympic Games will be held from July 23 to August 8 and the Paralympics from August 24 to September 5, even in the context of the state of emergency in Tokyo and in several other prefectures until the end. may. and 45,000 new cases of coronavirus in Japan over the past week.
The Olympic Torch Relay, already affected by the pandemic, continues its journey through Japan, and four volleyball, diving, marathon and athletics test events were organized in early May.
More than 11,000 athletes from 207 different National Olympic Committees (NOCs) took part in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, and more than 7,800 athletes have already secured a place to compete in Tokyo.
Vaccine deployment may have increased, but bringing together the world’s best athletes for the world’s biggest sporting event will prove to be a huge logistical challenge.
What are some of the plans in place?
Given the strict health and safety measures implemented, these Olympics will undoubtedly be different from those seen before.
In April, organizers released the second version of a playbook outlining a series of Covid-19 protocols which they say will include “a series of measures to allow the Games to be staged taking into account the evolution of Covid -19 in Japan and around the world, “in which” each participant in the Games has a clear role to play in ensuring their own safety. ”
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Among these are detailed procedures regarding testing, including all participants receiving two Covid-19 tests before entering Japan and athletes and those in close proximity being tested daily after arrival.
If an athlete returns a positive test, they will have to self-isolate and will not be allowed to compete, but another test will be performed from the same sample if the first test is positive or uncertain.
Participants will also need to download two apps for health reporting and contact tracing while in Japan, and athletes will receive a Samsung smartphone upon arrival at the Olympic and Paralympic Village to help record health details.
Foreign fans have already been banned from attending the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and a decision on allowing domestic spectators is expected in June.
Athletes and officials were advised to wear a mask at all times – except when eating, drinking, sleeping, training or competing, according to the playbook – and were advised to minimize physical interactions.
Athletes were advised to use dedicated Games vehicles – rather than public transport – for their trips and not to visit tourist areas, shops, restaurants, bars or gyms. All their meals should be taken in designated areas.
Athletes are also instructed to leave Japan within 48 hours of the end of competition.
A final version of the manual, giving a clearer idea of how the Games work, is expected in June.
Will vaccines be needed?
Vaccines are seen as part of the ‘toolbox’ of countermeasures during the Olympic Games, and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) says it is working with countries to encourage and assist all athletes, officials and parties. stakeholders in getting vaccinated.
However, a vaccine will not be required to participate in the Games.
Vaccine deployment in Japan has so far been much slower than in other countries. As of May 10, it had administered 4.4 million doses of the vaccine to its population of 126 million.
The challenge for the organizers is that countries around the world have varying access to vaccines. Some athletes, including sprinter Yohan Blake, have also expressed reluctance to be vaccinated.
The cost of canceling the Games
Organizers were quick to quell rumors that the Games should be canceled, remaining adamant they will go ahead as planned.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the decision to cancel the Games was up to the IOC, rather than the Japanese government or the local organizing committee.
IOC official Dick Pound also said another postponement would be prohibitive for Japan and logistically impossible, especially as the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics are now less than a year away. .
The IOC is a non-profit organization and distributes approximately $ 3.4 million each day to support athletes and sports organizations around the world.
The Olympic Games represent a substantial part of the total income of the IOC; Between 2013 and 2016, for example – a period spanning the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics and the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics – the IOC generated $ 5.7 billion in revenue.
Almost 75% of the IOC’s funding comes from broadcast rights, meaning the Tokyo Games would generate much-needed revenue even in the absence of fans, while a cancellation would prove disastrously costly.
The Games were canceled only three times – in 1916, 1940 and 1944 – because of the world wars.
Among the Japanese public, there is a strong feeling that the Games should not be held.
According to a recent poll by broadcaster JNN, 37% of respondents think the Olympics should be canceled, 33% think they should be held with a limited number of spectators, and 28% think they should be postponed.
An anti-Olympic petition collected more than 350,000 signatures, while demonstrators also took to the streets to demonstrate against the conduct of the Games.
More recently, an IOC press conference on May 12 was interrupted by a protester shouting “no Olympics nowhere” and holding a banner reading “no Olympics in Tokyo”.
The IOC, however, remains unfazed by public opposition.
“We are now in a 78-day implementation phase and fully focused on hosting the Games,” IOC spokesperson Mark Adams said at an online press conference.
“When the Games are held and the Japanese people are proud to host an event that will be a historic moment, I think I am very confident that we will see public opinion broadly in favor of the Games. “