Thu | Nov 26, 2020

An Olympics like no other - ... Officials warn of many rules, no partying, no hanging around

Published:Thursday | November 19, 2020 | 12:15 AM
People walk past the Olympic rings near the New National Stadium in Tokyo, Wednesday, March 4, 2020.
People walk past the Olympic rings near the New National Stadium in Tokyo, Wednesday, March 4, 2020.

TOKYO (AP):

Athletes at the Tokyo Olympics won’t have the luxury of hanging around once they’ve wrapped up their event.

No late-night parties in the Athletes Village. No nights — or early mornings — on the town.

Instead of getting to know their global neighbours, Olympic athletes will be encouraged to leave Japan a day or two after they’ve finished competing.

From the opening ceremony to life in the village on Tokyo Bay, the postponed 2020 Olympics will be like no other. There’ll be stringent rules and guidelines — and maybe vaccines and rapid testing — to pull off the games in the middle of a pandemic that has been blamed for more than 1 million deaths worldwide.

“Staying longer in the village increases the potential for problems,” John Coates, the IOC member in charge of overseeing Tokyo preparations, said yesterday at a briefing for the Olympics and Paralympics.

Coates was asked if athletes would be discouraged from sightseeing, or looking around the city.

“Yes,” he replied simply, a short answer suggesting these Olympics will be all business with few frills.

Coates accompanied International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach to Tokyo this week as he met Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and shored up support with key Japanese sponsors.

It was Bach’s first visit to Japan since the Olympics were postponed in March.

Bach left Tokyo yesterday after two days of saying a vaccine was likely to be available and athletes would be strongly encouraged to take it.

Organisers and the IOC are growing confident they will have a vaccine and rapid testing. This will help, but dozens of other countermeasures will also be in place; social distancing, masks and bubbles in the venues and the Athletes Village.

Japan has controlled the virus reasonably well with about 1,900 deaths attributed to COVID-19. But almost 500 new cases were reported yesterday in Tokyo, and more than 2,000 around Japan — both one-day records.

Optimism ON THE RISE

Cases are surging in the country just as optimism is also on the rise.

Coates said the opening ceremony would be restricted to only athletes and a maximum of six team officials. In the past, dozens of officials — at times 50, Coates said — were allowed to march, filling in for athletes who may have skipped in order to compete the next day.

“We won’t do that this time,” Coates said. “That is just increasing the potential problem in the ceremony.”

Coates said all 206 countries would be represented in the opening ceremony, and a full contingent of 11,000 athletes will compete in the games. But the opening ceremony parade is likely to look smaller.

Officials are also wrestling with how to keep the opening ceremony from becoming a mass-spreading event, even if athletes are tested when they enter Japan and when they leave their home country.

“We don’t want to change the tradition of all athletes having the opportunity to parade in the opening ceremony,” Coates said, suggesting athletes might be tested as they entered the stadium, or in the tunnel as the come on to the track.

There are sure to be lots of rules. And athletes will be asked to follow them, as will thousands of officials, judges, media, VIPs and broadcasters who will need to enter Japan.