Hindustan Times (Lucknow)
Amid pandemic, UPOA not to take any fans to Olympics
LUCKNOW: Unlike in the past when a number of people, including bureaucrats and politicians, used to be on the travellers’ list of the Uttar Pradesh Olympic Association (UPOA), the pandemic-postponed Tokyo Games won’t see any one from the state to enjoy the action live there as the sporting body has decided not to “risk” anyone’s life by taking them there.
“No, not this time we are taking anyone to Tokyo to watch the live action at Olympic Games. Tough travel restrictions and guidelines don’t allow extraordinary fans to visit the Games,” UPOA’s secretary-general Anandeshwar Pandey said on Tuesday.
“Besides having been vaccinated or testing negative, mandatory three-day quarantine, RT-PCR tests on every third day, restricted movements and obtaining visas etc have made things difficult even for the officials of the Indian Olympic Association. So, taking any fan to the Tokyo Games is almost impossible this time,” said Pandey, who also happens to be the treasurer of the Indian Olympic Association.
However, he said as per the present guidelines, top three officials of the IOA, including himself, general secretary Rajiv Mehta and president Narinder Batra, no other official is expected to travel to Tokyo. “We all three would be required to manage many things so we are bound to travel to Tokyo,” he said, adding, “Representatives belonging to different national federations of certain disciplines may also be allowed to go.”
“In fact, people are apprehensive about pandemic and if given the opportunity many would refuse to travel to Olympics.
This is an unprecedented situation for everyone in the world and we all should take all precautions to stay safe,” said Pandey, who has been part of IOA’s contingent to Olympics since Sydney Games in 2002.
So far, 100 plus officials, bureaucrats, politicians and even sports loving businessmen from Uttar Pradesh have been part of the live action at Olympics, Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, World Championships, Beach Games etc.
“A sum of Rs 10 lakh was wasted in 2020 when the Olympic Games were postponed at Toyo due to pandemic as UPOA had done air tickets, hotel bookings etc., for its own fans. I am hoping to get some money back as we were promised some refund by the concerned authorities at Tokyo,” he said.
As far as the protocols for the fans are concerned at the Tokyo Games, cheering, eating, high-fives and drinking alcohol would also be banned under controls now being considered, a Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun daily said, citing unnamed government officials.
Organisers are set to decide in June how many spectators— if any— will be allowed to attend the pandemic-postponed Games. “The plan is to stop the spread of infection during Games time with strict countermeasures,” the paper said.
Under the plan, spectators must be able to show a vaccination certificate or a negative test taken at their own expense less than a week before entering the venue. They must wear masks and fill in health-check sheets and once inside must not cheer loudly or high-five one another.
Security guards would be stationed around venues monitoring behaviour, the report said, with public viewing venues cancelled or scaled down. Japan’s vaccine rollout has been moving slowly with less than 2.5 percent of the population fully vaccinated so far.
Tokyo and other parts of the country are under a virus state of emergency which was extended on Friday until June 20, just over a month before the opening ceremony on July 23. The Yomiuri also published a new poll on Monday that shows 49 percent of people living in Tokyo want the Games to go ahead while 48 percent want them cancelled.
A total of 25 percent said they wanted the Games go ahead with a limited number of spectators, while 24 percent said they wanted them to be held with no fans. A new country-wide poll by the Nikkei newspaper found that 62 percent of respondents wanted the Games to be cancelled or postponed again, while 34 percent were in favour of them being held this summer.
Organisers have repeatedly ruled out the Games being postponed again. “We are also hopeful about the Games taking place at its schedule and I am sure that all the Tokyobound athletes would be vaccinated before they start for Tokyo,” said Pandey. “I am also hopeful of India winning 10-12 medals this time as our athletes have done their preparations well.”