Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike suggested Japan may host a ‘simplified’ Olympics next year due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and said organisers are already looking at ways to bring out possible changes.
Koike’s comments follow reports in the Yomiuri newspaper about various options that include compulsory coronavirus testing and fewer spectators for the games being considered by organisers.
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John Coates, the head of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC’s) inspectorate for Tokyo, had earlier cited the lack of a defence against the coronavirus as a threat to the Games. Organisers, he had advocated, should start planning a ‘very different’ Olympics if there were no signs of Covid-19 being eradicated.
Koike did not give out any details but said such discussions were necessary. “Holding the Olympic and Paralympic Games calls for sympathy and understanding of Tokyoites and the Japanese people,” Koike told reporters. “For that, we need to rationalise what needs to be rationalised and simplify what needs to be simplified.”
The Yomiuri, citing government and organising committee sources, said Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests are going to be made compulsory for all spectators, along with athletes and staff. Movement in and out of the Games village is also expected to get limited, and are options Japan will discuss with the IOC.
In March, a few weeks after lockdown started mushrooming across the world to control the pandemic, the IOC and the Japanese government took the unprecedented decision to postpone the Games scheduled to start in July. A delay beyond 2021, however, has been ruled out by the IOC.
The idea of a simplified Games, with reduced spectators is starkly divergent from comments made by the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in April. Speaking in Parliament, Abe had then said, “We will hold the Olympics and Paralympics in which athletes and spectators can participate safely and in a complete form. I think they cannot be held in a complete form if the pandemic is not contained.”
“The Olympic Games,” Abe further said, “must be held in a way that shows the world has won its battle against the coronavirus pandemic. Otherwise, it will be difficult to hold them.”
Within a month though, it seems solutions have been found, even if they are at the cost of celebration itself.
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