Tokyo hosts friendly competition to prepare for pandemic Olympics

Agustin de Gracia

Tokyo, Nov 8 (efe-epa).- Tokyo, the host of the postponed Olympics, held a rhythmic gymnastic competition on Sunday featuring a mix of international competitors from four nations that served as a litmus test for future sporting events – including the delayed Summer Games – that will be held amid tight coronavirus restrictions.

The “Friendship and Solidarity Competition” was the first international sporting event to be held in Japan since the country closed its borders last April because of the pandemic.

The competition saw two teams – made up of athletes from Russia, China, Japan and the United States – face off, with one team wearing blue (representing friendship) and the other in red (for solidarity).

“With this competition, you are setting an example that sports can be organised safely even under the ongoing health restrictions,” Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said in a video message at the start of the competition.

In his message, Bach thanked the participating athletes for showing that both in sports and in daily life “we are stronger together”.

Thirty athletes, both male and female, participated in the tournament, broken up into two teams of 15. There were eight from Russia, eight from China, eight from Japan and six from the United States.

The challenges began long before the athletes took to the floor, because they had to undergo three PCR tests to confirm that they were not infected with coronavirus, the last one 72 hours before flying to Tokyo.

They all stayed in the same hotel, where their movements were restricted, and could only go to the gymnasium where the championship was held, without being allowed to freely visit the Japanese capital.

“I know these are hard times for everyone (…), but it is very important for next year’s Olympics that all athletes can follow their dreams,” said Japan’s gymnastics star Kohei Uchimura in a brief message before the event.

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