Tokyo Olympic organizers have been insistent the 2020 Games will be staged this summer, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and media reports that suggest otherwise.
On Wednesday, officials offered one of the first concrete road maps of how they plan to pull it off, with the release of the first in a series of Tokyo Olympic playbooks meant to outline measures against COVID-19.
"They provide the framework for the basic principle that each stakeholder will follow before they travel to Japan, when entering Japan, during their time at the games and leaving the games," Olympic Games Executive Director Christophe Dubi said.
"They will provide direction and set parameters, which will enable people and organizations to advance their planning for the games next summer."
The 32-page playbook released Wednesday is aimed at international federations and technical officials. Guidelines for athletes and the media will be released at later dates.
“In this first edition, you will find many of the standards that are today commonly accepted as key health countermeasures for COVID. They range from personal hygiene to testing and tracing,” Ducrey said.
The unveiling of the playbook comes as officials continue to deny reports published in a British newspaper last month that the games will be canceled. The Tokyo Games are currently scheduled to begin July 23 after being postponed for a year in March 2020 due to COVID-19.
"There is a monumental team effort going into delivering these games, which is extraordinary," said Craig Spence, the International Paralympic Committee's chief brand and communications officer. "Nothing short of Herculean.
"Since last March's postponement, colleagues of the IOC, IPC and Tokyo 2020, in consultation with experts, have been working night and day 24/7 to develop a robust plan and toolkit that aims to protect every game stakeholder and, importantly, the Japanese people."
Those arriving from overseas will be required to test negative for the virus prior to departing for Japan and also provide a complete plan of their activities for their first 14 days in the country.
While in Japan, the use of public transportation will not be allowed without permission and, depending on the person’s specific role, there will be COVID-19 screenings at certain intervals. Participants are asked to immediately follow local rules if they test positive for the virus.
Athletes will be tested every four days. There won't be a requirement to be vaccinated to participate in the games.
"There will be a number of constraints and conditions that the participants will have to respect and follow, which will have an impact on their experience — particularly when it comes to the social aspects of what an Olympic experience can be," Ducrey said.
According to Games Delivery Officer Hidemasa Nakamura, each stakeholder group will assign someone to be in charge of compliance.
While the playbook cautions that noncompliance with safety measures could result in sanctions that “may have an impact on your participation to the Olympic and Paralympic Games,” officials were light on the details at Wednesday’s news conference.
Those coming to the games will be asked to cheer by clapping instead of chanting or shouting, something fans of Japanese pro baseball and soccer games have been asked to do since last summer.
Whether or not there will actually be fans at the games, and in what numbers, is an issue that hasn’t been resolved yet.
“The decision is not made at this point in time,” Dubi said. “But at some point in the course of spring, we’ll have to make this decision regarding the number of spectators, the proportion of spectators in the stadium and also the question of spectators from outside.”
Dubi mentioned the guidelines were developed, in part, by looking at other sporting events around the world.
“We learn a lot from the best practices of other events, and you will see that the playbooks reflect what we have seen across many sports,” Dubi said.
In addition to laying out guidelines, the playbook is likely also an attempt to win over a Japanese public that has grown increasingly more skeptical of hosting the games — and welcoming thousands of people into the country during the pandemic — amid a recent surge in virus cases.
Ten prefectures are currently under a state of emergency that was extended by one month to March 7 on Tuesday.
A January report by Kyodo News noted around 80% of the Japanese public was in favor of canceling the games or postponing them again.
“We have to really brief everyone on our side. but also inform the Japanese people about everything we do,” Dubi said. “Because it’s by reassuring everyone that we can create a safe environment.”
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