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It looks like the Olympics are really going to take place, starting July 23 in Tokyo. But hosting the Games presents great challenges as the pandemic continues in a host city currently in a state of emergency and in a country where a recent poll found that 80% of residents don’t want the Olympics to be held this summer.
Other major events have been marred in recent weeks by positive cases of the coronavirus, including the Eurovision Song Contest and the PGA Tour. Multiple outbreaks in the NFL last season caused major headaches.
The pandemic has already delayed the start of the 2020 games by a year (although they will still be called Tokyo 2020). With the competition just weeks away, organizers face two tests: preventing the spread of COVID-19 from foreign visitors to residents of Japan, and keeping athletes healthy and virus-free so they can compete.
But the scale of the challenge is immense. Some 11,500 athletes are expected to travel to Japan to participate in the Games, in addition to some 79,000 journalists, officials and staff who will also be in attendance.
Here are some of the rules that the organizers are implementing to prevent the Games from turning into a disaster. Athletes who break the rules – such as refusing to be tested for the virus – may be banned from competing and have their credentials stripped.
We focus here on the rules for athletes, but others traveling abroad for the Games as journalists, officials or others face similar constraints.
Vaccines are available for athletes and delegations – but they are not mandatory
The International Olympic Committee announced last month that Pfizer and BioNTech would donate doses of the coronavirus vaccine to athletes and national delegations before their trip to Japan, to create a safer environment at the Games and to protect residents of Japan. against the virus.
Organizers are taking the risks into account and seeking the “best possible medical advice from public authorities,” IOC member Dick Pound told NPR. Morning edition Last week.
“No one wants to set up games where you have an increased risk of transmission” of COVID-19, he said.
The rules for athletes at the Games are dictated in a guide called The Playbook.
Rules for other groups, such as journalists, staff and foreign delegations are set out in their own manuals. The most recent versions of the guides were published in April; the following and final versions are expected later this month.
Getting vaccinated before traveling to Japan is encouraged, but not required. The rules will also apply to vaccinated and unvaccinated athletes.
Previously, the IOC had announced that it would buy vaccines from China for the participants, but the IOC clarified that countries that had not authorized Chinese vaccines would not administer them, including Japan.
Test early and often
Competitors outside of Japan must be tested for the coronavirus twice, on different days, within 96 hours before their flight to Japan. They will be tested again upon arrival.
They are expected to download an app that will monitor their location and be used for contact tracing, and to activate the app and location services when they land in Japan.
Athletes will be required to self-quarantine for three days after arrival. They will be allowed to do Games-related activities during this time, provided they test negative every day and agree to stricter supervision from Tokyo 2020 staff.
Athletes will need to report their temperature and any symptoms daily via a smartphone app. They can also have their temperature checked every time they enter an Olympic venue and may be banned from entering if the temperature rises above 99.5 degrees a second time after a cool-down period.
Athletes will be tested daily
Athletes will be tested for the coronavirus daily via a rapid salivary antigen test. If the result is positive or unclear, a slower but more accurate PCR test will be performed using the same saliva sample. (For the differences between these tests, read this.)
If the athlete is confirmed positive for the virus, he will be immediately isolated and contact tracing will be carried out. The playbook does not say whether the athlete would be automatically banned from competing.
What happens to those who are identified as close contact of a confirmed positive will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, but a negative test result would be required to compete.
Dinner alone at the Olympic Village
Athletes should stay two meters – or around six and a half feet – apart from others, except in situations such as being on the playing field. Physical interactions, including hugs, handshakes and high-fives, are discouraged, which is a blow to classic athletic gestures.
At meal times, athletes should stand two meters away from others – or eat alone.
Athletes staying in the Olympic Village must eat there or at specially authorized venues or other locations. Those staying elsewhere may only eat at the Games venue catering facilities, their hotel restaurant, or in their room using room service or food delivery.
Significant traffic restrictions
Playing a tourist in Japan – or doing anything other than preparing and competing – is not permitted for athletes.
The playbook states that athletes can only leave their accommodation to go to the official Games venues and to limited additional locations, as defined by the list of permitted destinations.
Athletes must wear masks almost all the time
Unless they eat, drink, sleep, train or compete, athletes must be masked.
Athletes must use dedicated Olympic vehicles to get around and can only use public transport if it is the only option, for example to reach remote venues.
Foreign media can be tracked by GPS
Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto says overseas media will likely be monitored by GPS to make sure they don’t go to places they aren’t allowed to go, according to News from Japan.
Organizers have reduced the number of places where foreign journalists will be accommodated from 350 to 150, according to the news site – and will be barred from staying with local friends or other unregistered places.
Foreign journalists could have their credentials withdrawn if they travel to places they have not reported in advance.