By Antonio Hermosin and Yoko Kaneko
Tokyo, Aug 6 (efe-epa).- Olympics organizers in Japan “don’t want to hold competitions without an audience” but know stadiums will not be full due to the pandemic, Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto said in an interview with Efe.
He explained how they are dealing with the continuing uncertainty around the event due to the Covid-19 outbreak and outlined some of the measures being considered to hold the Games on 23 July 2021, the revised start date for the competition.
– Question: How have preparations for the Games progressed since the decision was taken last March to postpone them?
– Answer: We have decided on concepts and created a roadmap with six phases. The first ones were to set the dates of the Games and a detailed calendar and to ensure the availability of all venues by 2021. The next step will be to simplify the Games while respecting the fundamental principles. We hope to be able to report on concrete measures by the end of September and we are reviewing about 200 items that could be simplified. Among them is reducing the number of guests from international federations and the IOC (International Olympic Committee) but nothing is definitive yet.
– Q: Covid-19 cases have been on the rise in Japan and many other countries for months now. Is it possible to hold an Olympic Games in this scenario?
– A: This is a question not only for us but for the governments of Japan and other countries. We hope effective measures will be taken so that there will be an environment that will allow us to hold the Olympic Games. What we can do is take coordinated measures against the virus. Although we hope that the situation will be brought under control, it would be very optimistic to think that (the pandemic) will end, so I believe humanity will have to continue to live with the virus and maintain a social life. So the important thing is to take action against the coronavirus and that’s our job.
– Q: One of the biggest challenges will be managing the entry of thousands of athletes and committee representatives. How do you plan to prevent the importation of contagion or infection during the Games?
-A: More than 10,000 athletes and committee representatives will come and we expect them to be tested when they leave their countries and of course when they arrive in Japan. We will also discuss what measures to take to ensure that they do not become infected during their transfers in Tokyo or at their accommodation. There will also be protocols for infection.
– Q: Are there plans to isolate the Olympic Village to prevent athletes from becoming infected during their stay?
– A: I don’t think it will be possible to keep the Olympic Village area “clean” if athletes who stay there then go out to dinner somewhere without taking any preventive measures. We think it might be necessary to create a code of conduct for the athletes. We will examine these concrete measures together with the central and Tokyo governments.
– Q: Japan currently bars travelers from 146 countries. Do you expect the government to lift these measures before the Games or will there be exceptions to allow foreign athletes to enter?
– A: In the case of athletes and the Olympic family some special measures should be taken for those coming from countries where Japan has restrictions. I think it is unrealistic for everyone to be quarantined for 14 days from their arrival, so this will be one of the issues we will have to define with the government. In the case of spectators, we will see how the restrictions on different countries develop but we believe that from now on these bans will be lifted.
– Q: In Japan and other countries, top-level sports competitions have resumed with various measures to control and prevent contagion. Could they be a model for Tokyo 2020?
– A: Japanese baseball and soccer leagues have had spectators again, although a few at first and they will gradually increase. This is a very good reference for us. We are currently sending staff to baseball games to see the situation with our own eyes and try to learn. And from this fall onwards, world sporting events are expected (to resume). Seeing what measures they are going to take against the coronavirus will be a great reference for us.
– Q: IOC president Thomas Bach has said he cannot imagine the Olympic Games without an audience. Have you ruled out holding the Games without spectators?
– A: We don’t want to hold competitions without an audience and we totally share Bach’s point of view. Although before the pandemic spread we talked about holding them with full stadiums, now there is a high probability that we will be forced to discard this idea of having full stadiums. Even so, we don’t want them to be totally without an audience.
– Q: Do you envisage having only Japanese spectators in the stands because of the obstacles to international travel?
– A: We haven’t discussed any of that yet. If they follow the restrictions on entry into Japan it would be a different story but if they don’t, surely people will be able to come from those countries and see the competitions. And we think that will be the case.
– Q: There is a growing pessimism in Japan and abroad about the Games. What message do you send to those who think the Tokyo Games will not be possible in 2021 because of the pandemic?