TOKYO, Feb 3, (AP): It will be an Olympics like no other, the world’s largest mega-sports event being staged in the middle of a pandemic. Tokyo organizers and the IOC on Wednesday began explaining in public just how they hope to do it, rolling out “Playbooks” to detail the ways that 15,400 athletes will enter Japan – and exit Japan – with the Olympics opening on July 23 and the Paralympics a month later.
“There are indeed a lot of questions in the public domain about how the games will take place this summer. And today is a preliminary review of how things will be done,” Olympic Games executive director Christophe Dubi said in a video news conference with Tokyo officials.
The rollout of the Playbooks is aimed at assuring athletes, and an attempt to convince the Japanese public that the Olympics should go ahead. Polls across Japan show up to 80% want the Olympics postponed or canceled.
The public sees the health risk in a country that has controlled the virus better than most. The Playbook introduced on Wednesday is aimed at international sports federations and technical offi- cials. Guides for athletes, broadcasters and the media will come in the next few days. They are all similar, and these are all the “first versions.” Much of the information is still vague with more details coming in updates in April and June. The IOC held a similar session earlier in the week with Olympic athletes and their representatives to explain the stringent guidelines in their rule books.
On that video conference, obtained by The Associated Press, IOC President Thomas Bach spelled out the large unknown. “At this moment in time, no scientist can predict the health situation in 206 national Olympic committees at the time of the Olympics,” Bach told the athletes, adding the IOC was learning day to day and asked for the athletes’ patience. Games operation director Pierre Ducrey explained the general procedure for entering Japan. Both Dubi and Ducrey called the Playbooks a “framework.” “In the playbook we are documenting what will be the typical journey for a stakeholder group starting with measures 14 days prior to departure,” Ducrey said. “Including a test before you leave your county, a test upon the time you enter the country, and testing for each stakeholder group while they are in Japan.”
Olympics officials said they expect athletes to be tested at least every four days. They are being encouraged to arrive in Japan five days before their event and leave two days after. Dubi was asked about fans. It seems clear that fans from abroad will not be allowed but he did not confirm it. “The decision is not made at this point in time but at some point in the course of spring we will have to make this decision regarding the number of spectators – the proportion of spectators in the stadium – and the also the question of spectators from outside,” Dubi said. The rollout comes two weeks after a British newspaper, citing an unnamed Japanese government official, said the Olympics would be canceled. The IOC and Japanese organizers have pushed back for two weeks, and the Playbooks offer some concrete plans after months of vague talk.
“No matter what situation would be with the coronavirus, we will hold the games,” Yoshiro Mori, the president of the Tokyo organizing committee and a former Japanese prime minister, told lawmakers on Tuesday. “We should pass on the discussion of whether we will hold the games or not, but instead discuss how we should hold it.” The Playbooks spell out strict behavior in regard to entering Japan and leaving the country. They deal with hygiene, testing, immigration and a code of conduct that will prohibit athletes from any tourism. Olympic officials have documented thousands of sports events that have taken place in the last 10 months – some with fans, some without – and they believe they can do the same on an Olympic scale at dozens of venues spread across a Tokyo metropolitan area of about 35 million. “Sports events are taking place, athletes are training and competing, but we know that we are facing a huge challenge – that is to create a bubble for all athletes,” Lucia Montanerella, head of IOC media operations, told a panel discussion a week ago.
“One thing is to create a bubble for 200 athletes, and a very different thing is to created a bubble for thousands of athletes of different sports.”
Meanwhile, a coalition of 180 rights groups on Wednesday called for a boycott of next year’s Beijing Winter Olympics tied to reported human rights abuses against ethnic minorities in China. The games are to open in one year, on Feb. 4, 2022, and are set to go forward despite the pandemic. The coalition is composed of groups representing Tibetans, Uighurs, Inner Mongolians, residents of Hong Kong and others. The group has issued an open letter to governments calling for a boycott of the Olympics “to ensure they are not used to embolden the Chinese government’s appalling rights abuses and crackdowns on dissent.” Rights groups have previously asked the Switzerlandbased International Olympic Committee to move the games from China. The IOC has largely ignored the demands and says it’s only a sporting body that does not get involved with politics.