By Antonio Hermosin Gandul
Tokyo, July 23 (efe-epa).- Clouds of uncertainty engulf the Tokyo Olympics amid many unanswered questions with exactly a year to go before the mega event kicks off after being delayed until 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The global virus outbreak has made it impossible to hold an event of such magnitude in its usual format.
Little has changed on the Olympic front since March, when the pandemic was just beginning to hit several parts of the world, prompting the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Japanese organizers to delay the Games until next summer.
In Japan and several other countries, sports competitions have resumed under a “new normal” that provides clues on what the Games could look like, although an international event like the Olympics presents a logistical problem for which there are no solutions yet.
The Japanese organizers recently announced several developments for the Games, scheduled to be held from July 23 to Aug. 8 next year, including ensuring the availability of all venues for competitions and confirming the new schedule of events.
The additional expenditure of an estimated $3 billion incurred due to the postponement of the Games remains to be defined. Who will bear that cost is also not clear.
The issue has led to friction between the Japanese organizers and the IOC.
But the biggest challenge will be to ensure the health safety of some 11,000 athletes, as well as technicians, Olympic committee members and other officials, and the public during their arrival in Japan and the course of the event.
The organizers are expected to discuss concrete measures in this regard later this year.
Carrying out PCR tests on all people arriving for the Games would be an unprecedented challenge for Japan, a country that has not excelled at large-scale testing of the novel coronavirus and has instead chosen to shut down its borders as one of its main measures to contain the pandemic.
While the European Union and other countries have begun to lift restrictions on the entry of foreign travelers, the Japanese government has extended its ban on entering the country to 130 countries.
Moreover, it is yet to specify when it will lift the entry restrictions.
Japan’s Olympics Minister Seiko Hashimoto recently said the government was considering easing its restrictions at the border to allow foreign athletes competing in the Games to enter, without which Tokyo Olympics cannot be held.
Possible measures being considered by the Japanese authorities – according to local media – include mandatory quarantine for everyone entering the country for the Games, which would require preparing specific accommodation for the purpose given the high volume of arrivals expected.
Moreover, measures to prevent infections would be required in the training facilities for athletes and in the Olympic Village, where athletes will share rooms and common leisure spaces.
The organizers will also need to take into account some 28,000 journalists and technicians accredited to the Games, and the 80,000 registered volunteers who will help in the organization of the event.
Both the IOC and the local organizers have reiterated that they are not contemplating the games without spectators. However, they are yet to specify how they will ensure their safety during the event.
Possible safety measures shall include at least the mandatory use of a mask and checking body temperature at the entrance of the sports facilities – which will lead to longer queues than usual – besides a ban on hugging, shaking hands, singing, or shouting during the competitions.
These measures have already been implemented in the Japanese national soccer and professional baseball leagues, which have been open to the public since July 10 under a specific security protocol.