Tokyo Olympics Start despite COVID-19 Concerns

After a delay of a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Olympics finally started on July 23 in Tokyo. The opening ceremony was at the spanking new National Stadium, which is also the venue for the closing ceremony on August 8, 2021. Around 11,000 sportspersons from 206 countries are participating in the Games despite concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic. The organizers say that there is no cause for concern despite repeated calls for the cancellation of the Games.

The Games Schedule

The 2020 Summer Olympics start on 23 July and end on 8 August 2021, a year later than its original schedule, as it postpones due to the raging coronavirus pandemic. The Summer Games feature 339 events across 33 sports conducted across 42 venues. The Paralympics Games were schedule is to be between 24 August and 5 September with 539 events across 22 sports and 21 venues. Most of the Summer Games events are being held in the Greater Tokyo area with the marathon and some football games in Sapporo.

The COVID-19 Scenario in Japan

In comparison to many other countries, Japan’s COVID-19 caseload is relatively low; however, April saw a new wave of infections that spoiled its record. As of 21 July, Japan recorded confirmed cases numbering 848,222 with 15,062 deaths. The vaccination program commencing in February and currently, only about 25% of its population of 126 million is fully vaccinating. Entry by foreigners into Japan from 159 countries is banning at the moment. Currently, Japan is witnessing more than 3,000 cases daily even though there are restrictions on the hours of opening of bars and restaurants.

COVID-19 Measures for Visiting Athletes

Though there are no vaccination mandates for the participating athletes, the officials of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) expect that around 80% of them will be. The athletes and the supporting staff are at tests daily and till now around 90 people have tested positive. Amber Hill, a British sportsperson has been forcing to withdraw from the women’s skeet competition due to the infection. According to the organizers, only 22 cases have been confirming after conducting 124,358 tests of the athletes and team officials. However, the figure does not include tests conducted at the various airports.

Spectator Restrictions

Fans did not have a permit to enter any of the Olympic venues; however, they have thronged the public roads that see some of the competitions. Katsunobu Kato, a government spokesman, exhorted citizens to watch the games at home and avoid meeting and drinking in groups. The state of emergency declared in Tokyo on 8 July will stay in force till 22 August. No decision has been in making as yet regarding spectator attendance at the Paralympics.

Concerns of the Japanese and Athletes 

Several towns that were supposably to host the athletes have been pull out over concerns regarding the pandemic while a doctors’ union was against the Games being conduct. An opinion poll was conducted by Asahi Shimbun. The leading newspaper suggested that 80% of the respondents would prefer cancellation or postponement of the Games. The World Players Association has demanded that the IOC must be more active in ensuring the safety of the athletes.