COVID PRECAUTIONS A GAMES-CHANGER
NO CHEERING, NO HAPPY SNAPS, NO FOREIGN FANS. WELCOME TO TOKYO 2021
THE first modern Olympic Games held in an oddnumbered year, Tokyo 2021 is going to be very different from all the others.
As the world’s biggest multi-sports event, the level of planning that goes into running an Olympics is already mind-boggling but the extra biosecurity challenges caused by the global pandemic have elevated Tokyo to a whole new level of complexity.
It may not appear that unusual to anyone casually watching events unfold on television but nothing on the ground at Tokyo 2021 will be close to normal.
Foreign spectators have been told they won’t be allowed into Japan, so they will have to stay at home, while the decision on how many local fans can attend events is still pending.
One thing is known: if they do get inside the stadiums, they will have to keep quiet because singing and cheering aren’t permitted.
The 10,000-plus athletes won’t be forced to get vaccines but won’t be able to compete unless they pass a coronavirus test on arrival in Japan, while strict social-distancing protocols will apply. Then, as soon as their events are finished, they need to be on the first plane home.
If that all sounds gloomy, remember this: most Olympic athletes are used to performing in front of small crowds with little fanfare so that won’t be any different.
Only this time, billions of people will be watching the most anticipated sports event in history and a gold won in Tokyo will be just as valuable as at any other Games.
For athletes, that beats the nuclear option of cancelling everything.
Australia expects to send a team of around 480 athletes to Tokyo.
Australian athletes are way ahead of most other countries because they have mostly been able to train without any major disruptions. The biggest problem has been the lack of opportunities to practise against international opponents in the lead-up but almost every country is in the same boat.
VACCINES AND TESTING
It won’t be mandatory for any athletes or officials going to Tokyo to be vaccinated but it is highly recommended.
Although nothing official has been announced, you can bet that everyone on the Australian team will be offered the jab if they want it, especially as all athletes and officials
will have to pass a COVID test within 72 hours of flying to Japan then pass another test on arrival before being allowed to compete.
Anyone who fails a test on arrival will have to go into isolation at a Japanese government-approved facility then pass another test before rejoining their teammates.
Every country has their own rules but Australian athletes can expect to have to spend two weeks in quarantine when they return home, so don’t expect any tickertape parades.
For the first time, each country will have two flag-bearers, one male and one female, but the number of participants at the opening and closing ceremonies will be heavily reduced. Organisers have told athletes not to arrive in Japan any more than five days before their event, and to leave within 48 hours once they are finished, so most will be watching from television. The protocols for medal ceremonies will also change. Competitors will be told to observe social-distancing rules.
Overseas spectators were among the first big casualties of the new rules to make sure the Games still proceed. Confirmed only last month, non-essential people from countries outside Japan have been told they won’t be allowed in the country. This includes the family and friends of athletes as well as a lot of the VIPS who just show up for the freebies.
NO CHEERING ALLOWED
One of the most bizarre rules that has been put in place is a ban on cheering. Spectators, if there are any, will be told not to sing or chant or scream out support to athletes in fear of spreading the coronavirus. Instead, they have been told to show their appreciation through clapping.
One of the biggest bonuses of living in the Olympic village for athletes is they get to meet and chat with competitors from all over the world.
But not this time because of the strict social-distancing rules that will include staying well apart, wearing face masks and even eating meals at staggered times.
NO HAPPY SNAPS
If all that isn’t bad enough, athletes have also been warned that all tourism and sightseeing will be banned, so there will be no trips to the Shibuya scramble crossing or selfies under Tokyo’s famous neon lights. Instead, they will be under orders to pack up their bags and head home within 48 hours.