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The Tokyo 2020 Games were postponed earlier this year as the scale of the coronavirus pandemic became clear © AFP/File Charly TRIBALLEAU


Pandemic Olympics: Japan starts virus countermeasure talks

TOKYO, Japan, Sep 4 – Japanese officials and Tokyo 2020 organisers began talks Friday on the mammoth task of how to hold the postponed Olympics safely while the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage.

The Games were postponed earlier this year in a historic decision as the scale of the coronavirus crisis became clear.

But with less than a year until the new opening date on July 23, 2021, many questions remain — from how border controls will affect the movement of athletes and officials, to whether audiences will be able to pack into venues to watch events.

Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto said the committee “hopes to show results this year… and we will make efforts so that athletes in Japan and overseas will feel that next year’s Olympics is safe and secure because of our coronavirus measures.”

Muto said Friday’s discussions focused on “what kind of measures will be needed when athletes enter Japan from overseas,” but gave no further detail and declined to confirm reports the government may waive quarantine requirements for athletes if they agree to limit their movements inside Japan.

From October, virus measures at venues and the athletes’ village will be discussed, he said, with virus measures for stakeholders and spectators on the agenda from late October and into November.

Muto repeated that organisers hoped to avoid a Games without spectators — an option that has been mooted given Japan is still limiting audiences at sports events and its borders remain largely closed to foreign visitors.

Japan’s Yomiuri daily reported Thursday that the government was considering a process in which athletes would be tested multiple times, including before travel, on arrival and before entering the Olympic village.

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They would be exempt from quarantine, to allow them to train, but would be restricted to travel between venues and hotels, the paper reported.

With little sign of the coronavirus disappearing soon, and a vaccine possibly months or even years away, some experts have questioned whether holding the Games is feasible at all.

Japanese Olympic Committee secretary general Tsuyoshi Fukui told the panel that athletes were counting on them to successfully hold the event.

“We want you to host the 2020 Games no matter what,” he said.

“Athletes are strongly hoping for it. We want to head to the Games by making every possible effort.”



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