Spike in coronavirus cases in Japan threatens Olympic readiness plans

Spike in coronavirus cases in Japan threatens Olympic readiness plans

Every day seems to bring another change to the Tokyo Olympics, as the surge in coronavirus cases in Japan threatens planning for the games, which are due to open in just over three months.

On Wednesday, a torch relay stage was moved from public streets in the town of Matsuyama, in the Japanese prefecture of Ehime. It was to take place in a city park without “spectators or performances on stage,” said a statement from the organizing committee.

This followed the Torch Detour last week in Osaka – Japan’s second largest metropolitan area – and only worked in a city park.

Some stages of the relay will also be removed from public roads on May 1 and 2 on the island of Okinawa, in southern Japan.

The torch relay will feature a total of 10,000 runners crisscrossing Japan until it arrives on July 23 at the opening ceremony in Tokyo. The relay began on March 25 in northeast Japan and, although it went off with few incidents, organizers have warned that it may need to be rerouted as conditions change.

WATCH | Effect of the pandemic on the Olympics:

Morgan Campbell, Meghan McPeak and Dave Zirin discuss precautions to keep the Tokyo 2020 Olympics on track. 6:35

Osaka and Tokyo were expected to receive new emergency orders this week. Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said on Tuesday that action must be taken “as soon as possible” to stem the spread.

Japan has attributed more than 9,600 deaths to COVID-19, good by global standards but poor by standards in Asia.

“If the coronavirus infection continues to worsen, it is not time to hold the Olympics,” Kotaro Nagasaki, governor of Yamanashi prefecture, said this week. Yamanashi is located just southwest of Tokyo and is home to the famous Mt. Fuji.

Some test events are also postponed or rescheduled. Many of those moving forward take place without athletes – so-called operational events – or with only Japanese athletes.

A qualifying artistic swimming event in Tokyo, originally scheduled for earlier this year and then postponed to early May, will now be held outside Japan in June, swimming’s governing body FINA said in a statement. communicated.

It had to be moved in part because a FINA diving event is scheduled to take place in Tokyo from May 1-6 at the new Olympic swimming venue.

Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa said last week that all athletes may need to be tested on a daily basis. Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported on Tuesday that daily saliva tests for Olympic and Paralympic athletes are being planned, citing “officials with knowledge of the planning.”

This change is likely to appear in the second edition of the so-called “Playbook”, which is due to be released by the end of the month. These guides are published by the IOC and have so far established vague rules for 15,400 Olympic and Paralympic athletes and tens of thousands more to follow when entering Japan.

Fans from overseas have been banned. It is still unclear whether local fans will be allowed to attend and, if so, what the capacity of the venues will be.

A final edition of Playbook is due out in June.

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