Tokyo Olympics organizers Tuesday said they were encouraged by a gymnastics meet over the weekend and are now ready to hold test events early next year.
Hidemasa Nakamura, the Tokyo Olympics delivery officer, said during an online briefing that plans are now in the works for more test events starting in March. However, he did not say what form these might take or if non-Japanese athletes would be involved.
“We are discussing how to deal with COVID-19 together with the Japanese government and Tokyo Metropolitan Government,” he said. “From the beginning of next year we will begin operations and proceed to have test events in March.”
Sunday’s Friendship and Solidarity Competition featured 22 Russian, Chinese and American athletes in addition to Japan’s contingent, which included reigning Olympic men’s champion Kohei Uchimura.
The gymnasts who entered Japan first faced a quarantine at home. In Tokyo, they were isolated in hotel rooms, not allowed out for sightseeing, and tested daily for COVID-19. Likewise, the 2,000 fans allowed into Yoyogi National Gymnasium on Sunday had their temperatures checked upon entry.
The JGA confirmed Tuesday that there had been no positive tests among athletes or staff, and International Gymnastics Federation President Morinari Watanabe praised the athletes’ attitude and said their confidence had been bolstered.
“When they arrived in Japan, you could see fear in their eyes,” Watanabe said after meeting with Tokyo 2020 organizers.
“They were worried they might be infected and you can see that fear deep into their eyes. But each day that they spent time in Japan, they managed to ease their fears.”
“At the end of the day you could see the joy in their eyes.”
Holding the postponed Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics will be far more difficult than a one-day event with a few dozen athletes.
Tokyo Olympic officials, the International Olympic Committee and the government are trying to convince the world that the postponed games can open July 23 despite so much uncertainty in the ongoing pandemic.
IOC President Thomas Bach is expected in Tokyo later this month to drive home the point, particularly with the public and with local sponsors who have put up more than $3 billion to run the games. Bach canceled a trip last month to South Korea because of the virus’s resurgence in Europe.
The Olympics will involve 11,000 athletes from 206 nations and territories competing over more than two weeks. The Summer Games also usually draw tens of thousands of officials, judges, coaches, media, broadcasters, sponsors and VIPs.
The subsequent Paralympics will involve 4,400 athletes.
It’s unclear how many fans will be allowed at venues, and if any non-Japanese fans will be allowed.
Nakamura was asked about news on Monday that Pfizer Inc. has said that early data on a vaccine suggested it might be 90% effective at preventing COVID-19.
“Of course I heard the news about the vaccine and I think that everyone felt a sense of relief,” Nakamura said. “The same can be said for the organizing committee. But what we are doing right now is not thinking about the vaccine because we don’t have a vaccine yet, but rather focused on testing, social distancing and also the cooperation between the athletes and the other stakeholders.”
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