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  • #31
    'Tokyo Is the Best-Ever Prepared Olympic City.' IOC President Thomas Bach on Why the 2020 Games Will Go Ahead

    Despite record COVID-19 infections in Japan and elsewhere in the world, the country is plowing ahead with plans to hold the rescheduled 2020 Tokyo Olympics next summer. In mid-November, before Japan’s resurgent coronavirus outbreak, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach visited Tokyo to inspect facilities, saying the Games “would be the light at the end of this dark tunnel.”

    The cost of cancellation is astronomical: Japan has spent more than $12 billion preparing for the Games, though some estimates put the true cost at around $26 billion when infrastructure investment, and an extra billion or so for the year’s delay, are both factored in.

    But the risks are also clear: welcoming 15,000 athletes from over 200 different territories, and perhaps hundreds of thousands of spectators, has the potential to create a catastrophic super-spreader event. Local attitudes have also turned frosty. An October survey by the Kyodo News wire service revealed that only 38% of Japanese support hosting the Games next summer, while 31% favor another postponement, with nearly a quarter wanting them canceled altogether.

    In an exclusive interview with TIME, Bach explains why he’s confident the Games will happen and be a success. (The following has been edited for length and clarity.)

    What was your impression of the Olympics facilities and preparations during your visit to Tokyo last month?

    Tokyo is the best-ever prepared Olympic city. And if you look at the venues, they’re highly impressive and inspiring. I visited the Olympic Village because, for an athlete, this is the place where the Olympic spirit is, where you have all the athletes together. It’s an iconic village with a view of the rainbow bridge looking towards the towers of the city center. It’s very well planned and is already adapted to [coronavirus] requirements because there is enough space for social distancing. The Japanese have been thinking about every detail. The ceiling is seven meters high allowing for a good air circulation and so on.

    So athletes would be allowed to mingle and wouldn’t be confined to bubbles and these types of measures?

    This is work in progress. An interim report has been published based on the tools we have available now concerning [coronavirus] countermeasures. We will be able to add to these tools by the time of the Games—the latest developments in rapid testing and the tool of vaccination.

    Right now, some measures in the interim report [are] about wearing masks, guidelines for the duration of stay in the Olympic Village, not to have the village at full capacity all the time to allow for better social distancing, a test center in the village, and many other things.

    Japan has really been planning very diligently and the IOC, on our side, will work very closely with the National Olympic Committees, and with athletes and officials, so we have our package of countermeasures from both partners.

    You sound very confident. If you had to give a percentage possibility that the Olympics will go ahead in the summer what would you say?

    This is an unfair question because what is 100% in our world? But we are very, very confident and at this moment we have no reason to believe that the Games could not take place.

    This is a based on facts and figures. We can see, on the one end, the strong commitment of the Japanese government and of the prime minister [Yoshihide Suga] to make the Games happen—and this is absolutely in line with our own commitment.

    When you look at the venues, the infrastructure, the work of the organizing committee—which is already entering the operational phase right now—[and] the fact that in Japan big sports events have already been successfully organized even under these restrictions, all these together does not give us any reason for not believing that we would have the opening ceremony on July 23 and that we will have a very meaningful and very successful Olympic Games.

    But at the moment there are rising rates of coronavirus infections across the world. Do you fear that many athletes may choose to stay away—like some did because of Zika in Rio 2016? And are you worried that many athletes cannot train properly because of lockdown measures?

    No, and for Rio I think it was one golfer who stayed away. We can see from athletes that they’re eager to compete, they are taking all precautionary measures and are already now in preparation. So they are taking part in those events which can take place right now, and we will support them and we are supporting them in this. I do not think that the Games will be greatly affected by a big number of athletes staying away. On the contrary, the athletes want to be in the Games.

    Still, there are many factors to consider, including the health of the Japanese public, who might be put in jeopardy by all these people arriving from across the world. The U.S. is also in a very bad situation regarding the coronavirus at the moment. If cases continue on the current trajectory, could you foresee American athletes and spectators being asked to stay away?

    No, there are measures that go with testing, which are already planned in the interim report. And officials would be regularly tested during the Olympic Games. And the situation in the U.S. right now [might not be the] situation in eight months from now.

    Up until the 1990s, the summer and winter Olympics were both held in the same year. Given the current situation, isn’t the ideal solution to delay Tokyo until 2022 and have both Games in the same year, when stadiums could be full, the athletes would be properly prepared and public health could be safeguarded?

    No, the preparation of the athletes has started already and for some of them it would be too long to be prepared. You also cannot maintain the infrastructure of the Games for such a long period. All this infrastructure has a legacy, as the Olympic village will be turned into apartments for the population of Tokyo, for instance.

    The broadcasting center will be needed for an exhibition center and other [uses]. You cannot employ the thousands of people working in the organizing committee forever. You cannot have the National Olympic Committees and the IOC having to support athletes even longer. In this respect, the one year postponement was the right [choice], otherwise we would have to take cancellation into consideration, and this is what nobody wanted or wants.

    Japan’s Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto recently said Tokyo 2020 would be held next year “at any cost.” Is there a risk that organizers are so determined to recoup financial losses that they are ignoring public health concerns?

    No, this is not the choice. We in the IOC set the first priority [as being] a safe organization for all participants. The minister did not say at any cost of safety or whatever. She has to be interpreted—and I can tell you this because we are in close contact—[as expressing] confidence that the Games will take place at this moment. And we have no reason to believe that they could not take place.

    This has been a year where racial and social justice has hit the headlines, especially with Black Lives Matter. A lot of sporting franchises from the NBA to Premier League Soccer have embraced that movement. World Athletics president Sebastian Coe recently voiced support for allowing peaceful protest at the Olympics. Is it now time to revise Article 50 of the Olympic Charter that bans any form of protest during the Games?

    First of all, we are fully supportive of freedom of speech and this is highlighted in the athletes’ rights and responsibilities declaration, which has been devised by our Athletes’ Commission with the input of more than 4,000 athletes worldwide. Athletes from a number of National Olympic Committees have already made it very clear that they want the field of play and the Olympic ceremonies protected from any kind of political demonstrations. Because otherwise you could have … one athlete demonstrating against an athlete from another country or its politics.

    We think that the field of play and the ceremonies are not the place for this. Athletes can express themselves in press conferences, in social media, in team meetings, in all the different events in the mixed zones. At the same time, we want to be creative and so we are expecting recommendations from the Athletes’ Commission for how athletes … can express their support for Olympic values.

    The Olympics in the past has been used as a political force for good. There was the exclusion of apartheid South Africa and allowing the Korean peninsula to march and compete under a united flag at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. Instead of holding consultations, doesn’t the IOC have an opportunity to be a thought-leader?

    We could only achieve the joint march of the [Korean] team in PyeongChang because we are politically neutral. If we had taken a political side there, no way could we get North Korea on board. And only by supporting the North Korean athletes in the lead up to the Games could we get them on board. Our mission is to bring people together and to emphasize what humanity is sharing, not what is dividing humanity. If the Athletes’ Commission has good ideas [to enable us to] emphasize this role—this inclusivity, this unity, this non-discrimination, this equality—we will be very creative [about including them].

    There are growing calls from the U.S., U.K., and now even the E.U. to boycott the Beijing Winter Games over China’s persecution of Uighur Muslims. Do you feel that the Olympics should consider serious action against China?

    No, on the contrary. First of all, [the] anti-apartheid [movement] was an action by the entire society of the world. It was not sport alone. You had an economic boycott, cultural boycott with regard to apartheid. And this made it work.

    If you speak about the Games in general or in Beijing, of course there are different opinions and some politicians are arguing for this. On the other hand, the most recent resolution of the G20 welcomed the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo and in Beijing. If you look at the most recent resolution adopted by consensus by all the U.N. member states, [it] recognized the contribution of the Olympic Games to peace and emphasized [its] unifying power. So our role in this world is first of all about sport and our social role is to unify and not to divide people.

    When it comes to human rights, the responsibility we have, and [which] we take very seriously, is within the framework of the Olympic Games. There is a host who has to respect the Olympic Charter and the host city contract, [which is where] human rights find their expression. This is our remit and this we take seriously. But we are not a world government and cannot achieve what generations of politicians and U.N. general assemblies have not achieved. Our role is a different one.

    This has been a tumultuous year for everyone. How have yourself and your team at the IOC dealt with the mental toll?

    For myself, what I learned during this crisis is what a weekend means. I didn’t really have weekends for many, many years, because events and the meetings that usually taking place on weekends. So I had the opportunity to finally do some sport, so I lost a good amount of kilos and I’m more fit than at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis. Many colleagues around me had the same experience.

    So you can see how much sport is contributing to physical and mental health, and how it helps you to cope with stress and to keep you physically fit. So I’m ready for an extraordinary Olympic year ’21.

    It was just announced that break-dancing, or breaking, has been added to the roster of sports for 2024. Are you a personal fan of breaking? Have you ever break-danced yourself?

    Unfortunately, this is more about passion than talent [for me], but I followed breaking in particular during our Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires in 2018. That was a really exciting experience and having the opportunity to be with those young guys there taught me a lot. So I am really looking forward to breaking in ’24, but I will not be participating in the qualification events.:

    Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


    • #32
      Russia claims victory with loopholes in Olympic sanctions

      Russian sports officials were in an upbeat mood Thursday after finding crucial loopholes in the decision to ban the country from using its name, flag and anthem at the next two Olympics.

      The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling, which halved a proposed four-year ban to two, left Russia in full control of its roster and scrapped a plan to exclude athletes suspected of benefiting from past doping cover-ups.

      Russian teams won’t officially be called Russian teams at next year’s Tokyo Olympics or the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing, but “Russia” will be printed on their red, white and blue uniforms.

      “It is a victory for Russia,” Russian anti-doping agency acting CEO Mikhail Bukhanov said. “The international sports arbitration did not restrict clean athletes’ rights to take part in Olympic and Paralympic Games and world championships.”

      WADA wanted Russian athletes to show they didn’t benefit from cover-ups at the Moscow laboratory before they were cleared to compete at the Olympics, Paralympics and world championship events. Russia argued this amounted to collective punishment and Bukhanov likened it to banning everyone from the roads because of one drunk driver.

      The most important part of the ruling, according to Russian Olympic Committee president Stanislav Pozdnyakov, was the lack of any “extra criteria” for eligibility.

      “Clean Russian athletes can take part in the Olympics without any restrictions and do that on a team formed by the national Olympic committee,” Pozdnyakov said.

      The new restrictions on Russia will be weaker than before. In Tokyo and Beijing, Russia will be able to field athletes whose files in the Moscow doping lab database were altered or deleted while the data was under the control of the Russian state. Those manipulated files — which Russian authorities deny responsibility for — made it much harder to pursue suspected doping cases.

      When the “Olympic Athletes from Russia” team competed at the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, it was only after the International Olympic Committee had vetted the athletes for possible connections to doping at the Sochi Games four years earlier. Several likely medal contenders were refused a spot.

      Russian track and field athletes have been barred from wearing national colors at their last two world championships, so the Olympics will mark a return to competing in red, white and blue.

      CAS ruled that Russian government officials, and even President Vladimir Putin, can’t attend the Olympics, but workarounds are baked in. They can simply be invited by the host nation, as Putin surely would be.

      Russia was also barred from hosting major sporting events until December 2022, or bidding for new ones during that time, but more loopholes can be found.

      Hosting soccer matches during next year’s European Championship in St. Petersburg is exempt — the ruling only covers world championships, not continental events — and Russia can still host the Champions League final in 2022. Other events like scheduled wrestling, shooting and volleyball championships could yet stay in Russia if it’s “legally or practically impossible” to move them.

      The Russian Hockey Federation welcomed the CAS decision to cut the proposed sanction to two years, saying it will host the 2023 world championships “without any restrictions of any kind.”

      Russia could yet launch targeted appeals to soften the CAS sanctions further. Regardless, Russia already scored a victory on Thursday.

      “When the Russians are standing on the top step of the podium, everyone will know that they are Russians,” Tatyana Pokrovskaya, the coach of the country’s hugely successful synchronized swimming team, told state news agency Tass. “And probably several athletes will be singing the anthem.”:

      Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


      • #33
        Tokyo Olympic Games Relay Opens In 100 Days With 10,000 Torchbearers

        The torch relay for the postponed Tokyo Games will start in just over three months, and it faces the same questions as the Olympics about being held safely during the coronavirus pandemic.

        Organizers said Tuesday the relay is set to begin on March 25 from the northeastern prefecture of Fukushima. This was also to have been the starting point for the relay before the Olympics were postponed nine months ago.

        This coastal area of Japan was devastated almost 10 years ago by an earthquake and tsunami and the subsequent meltdown of three nuclear reactors.

        The relay will travel across Japan and involve 10,000 runners and tens of thousands of officials. This does not include local residents who will want to see the torch go by.

        “The COVID-19 countermeasures will be worked on continuously for the torch relay; the audience, the torchbearers as well as the officials who are related to the program,” Yukihiko Nunomura, vice director general of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee, said during an online news conference.

        The relay is sponsored by Toyota and Coca-Cola — two heavyweight Olympic sponsors. There was some discussion early about the possibility of eliminating the event for cost and safety reasons, but that idea seemed to be quickly discarded.

        The relay will last for 121 days and pass through 859 municipalities — pretty much as was planned before the postponement.

        “We wanted to simplify the program as much as possible, trying to minimize the number of vehicles and audience as well,” Nunomura said. “As you know the torch relay will go all over Japan and we will have a lot of participants.”

        The Tokyo Skytree, the tallest tower in Japan, was lighted in gold on Tuesday to commemorate 100 days until the relay begins.

        The postponed Olympics are scheduled to open on July 23, 2021, and are set to include the full complement of 11,000 athletes. The Paralympics will add 4,400 more.

        Organizers of the Olympics and torch relay are waiting until early next year to provide specific details about countermeasures for the coronavirus. They have been encouraged about the recent roll out of vaccines.

        “A few vaccines are now being distributed and are actually being used,” Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said Monday in an interview with The Associated Press. “It’s a ray of hope.”

        Japan has seen new infections spike across the country in the last several weeks. On Saturday, new cases totaled 3,041 — the first time above 3,000.

        Japan, with a population of 125 million, has handled the pandemic relatively well with just over 2,500 deaths attributed to COVID-19.:

        Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


        • #34
          Japan developing tracking system for travelers from overseas

          Japan is developing a system aimed at keeping track of travelers from overseas as part of efforts to prevent the further spread of the novel coronavirus within its borders, a senior government official said Sunday.

          Takuya Hirai, digital transformation minister, said on a TV program that he’d like to make it mandatory for people entering the country.

          Hirai said the government wants to complete the development of the monitoring system in time for the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, due to be held next summer.

          Without providing details, he said it will function by using GPS.

          His comments on Fuji TV’s “The Prime” news program came a day after Japan said it will ban nonresident foreign citizens from entering the country, which has been seeing record daily numbers of coronavirus cases in recent weeks.

          The measure, which will take effect from Monday through January, was announced following Japan’s detection of a new and seemingly more contagious variant of the virus.

          Among other measures to tighten its borders, Japan will require citizens and foreign residents to quarantine for two weeks, show proof of a negative coronavirus test result within 72 hours of departure for the country and undergo another test upon arrival.:

          Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


          • #35
            • Fresh fears for Tokyo Olympics as host city sees surge in Covid-19 infections

            When Japanese and International Olympic Committee officials finally accepted defeat in March and postponed the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, there was general agreement that a one-year wait would give the world ample time to overcome the coronavirus pandemic.

            The delayed Olympics, the then prime minister Shinzo Abe said, would be an opportunity to pay tribute to the human spirit in overcoming the world’s biggest public health crisis for a century.

            But in the nine months since the first postponement in the modern Games’ 124-year history, Olympic officials have found themselves wrongfooted by the virus at every turn. Far from the communal celebration of sport envisaged by Abe, the harsh realities of Covid-19 have forced them to lower their expectations.

            With just over half a year to go before the opening ceremony at the $1.4bn (£1.02bn) main stadium, organisers are battling rising costs stemming from the pandemic and, critically, waning public interest in the host country.

            The discovery of a new variant of Covid-19 – which has now been identified in Japan and prompted a ban on non-resident arrivals – has only underlined the difficulties facing Olympic officials as they prepare for the March release of plans for a scaled-down Games.:
            • Japan’s Suga insists delayed Tokyo Olympics will go ahead in 2021

            Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga began 2021 promising that the delayed Tokyo Olympics would go ahead in July, even as Japan contends with a surge in coronavirus cases and the rising cost of an event that is becoming increasingly unpopular with the public.

            “The Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games will be held this summer,” Suga said in a written statement for the New Year, describing the event as a symbol of world unity. “We will make steady preparations to realise a safe and secure tournament.”:

            Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


            • #36
              • IOC seeks Covid vaccines for athletes in second wave so Olympics can go ahead

              The International Olympic Committee is working on ways to get athletes the coronavirus jab in the second or third wave so that the Tokyo Games can go ahead safely in July, the Guardian has been told.

              While insisting that we “do not want to queue jump”, IOC sources are hoping athletes from around the globe will be high up on the vaccination list, once key workers and the vulnerable are given the jab.

              Several sources in the Olympic movement have also indicated that they remain confident the Games will take place in some form this summer. However the rise of several new coronavirus variants and the steep jump in cases in Japan – which reported a record 5,307 daily cases on Wednesday – has led to a growing desire to get athletes vaccinated in the coming weeks and months.

              The IOC is aware that it needs to tread a fine line between ensuring athlete safety and appearing overly pushy, and there were some eyebrows raised in Lausanne on Tuesday when one IOC member, Dick Pound, suggested there would be no public outcry if athletes jumped the queue – and that “it was the most realistic way” of ensuring the Tokyo Olympics went ahead.

              Pound, the longest-serving member of the IOC, told Sky News: “In Canada where we might have 300 or 400 athletes – to take 300 or 400 vaccines out of several million in order to have Canada represented at an international event of this stature, character and level – I don’t think there would be any kind of a public outcry about that. It’s a decision for each country to make and there will be people saying they are jumping the queue but I think that is the most realistic way of it going ahead.”

              IOC sources stressed to the Guardian that the situation was more nuanced than Pound had made out.

              Previously the IOC president, Thomas Bach, has encouraged athletes to have a Covid-19 vaccination before Tokyo 2020 but insisted it would not be an entry requirement. That is partly because there is an appreciation that some athletes’ faith may mean they are uneasy about using a vaccine containing pork-derived gelatin, which is widely used as a stabiliser to ensure it remains safe and effective during storage and transport.

              While not commenting on Pound’s comments, or suggestions it wanted athletes to be vaccinated in the second or third wave, the IOC did confirm it would be making “all efforts to have as many foreign participants as possible” vaccinated before the Games.

              “Together with the National Olympic Committees, we will make all the efforts so that the NOCs encourage and assist their athletes, their officials and their stakeholders to get vaccinated before they come to Japan,” the IOC said.

              “We are doing so, of course, in order to contribute even more to the safe environment in the Games, but also out of respect for the Japanese people because they should be confident that everything is being done to not only protect the participants, but also the Japanese people, by having as many of the visitors as possible being vaccinated.”

              The British Olympic Association and UK Sport have discussed how they could get a Covid vaccine to athletes by July but it is understood they are not in active conversations with the government. The BOA chief executive, Andy Anson, said: “The priority has to be the people who need it most; frontline workers, the elderly and the vulnerable. There will come a time, hopefully ahead of the Olympic Games, when the athletes can be considered for vaccination but we’ll only do that when it’s appropriate.”:

              Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


              • #37
                The Tokyo Olympics hit the 200-days-to-go mark

                The countdown clock for the postponed Tokyo Olympics hit 200 days to go on Monday.


                Also on Monday, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said he would consider calling a state of emergency as new coronavirus cases surge to record numbers in Tokyo and neighboring prefectures. Japan has never had a lockdown for COVID-19, attempting to juggle the economy and health risks.


                It’s nearing deadline time for Tokyo Olympic organizers, the International Olympic Committee, and various Japanese government entities as they try to pull off the Games in the middle of a pandemic.

                Officials have promised to announce concrete plans early in the new year about how to get 15,000 Olympic and Paralympic athletes into Japan; about the safety of the Athletes Village, and hundreds of thousands of fans, media, judges, officials, broadcasters and VIPs.

                Suga pledged again to hold the Olympics, saying it would be “proof that people have overcome the coronavirus.” And he said vaccine approval would be speeded up by a month so that vaccinations could begin in February instead of March.

                Japan has attributed more than 3,400 deaths to COVID-19, modest by global standards for a country of 125 million, but worrying as new cases rise quickly. A poll last month by national broadcaster NHK show 63% want the Olympics postponed or canceled.

                Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike and the governors of Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures asked the national government Saturday to declare the state of emergency after the capital saw a daily record of 1,337 new cases on New Year’s Eve. That marked a jump of almost 400 in just a few days.

                Yoshiro Mori, the president of the organizing committee and a former prime minister, again ruled out any cancellation of the games in an interview several days ago with the Nikkan Sports newspaper. He was asked when a decision would come about having local fans or fans from abroad.

                “Sometime from March through May,” he replied. “The final deadline for a decision would be May, but it may come sooner.”

                Any reduction in fans will hit the organizing committee budget. Tokyo has budgeted $800 million for ticket sales, and any shortfall will have to be made up by government entities, which are footing most of the Olympic bills.

                The official budget for the Tokyo Olympics was increased last month to $15.4 billion, an increase of $2.8 billion because of the delay. However, several government audits the last few years suggest the real number is about $25 billion.

                All but $6.7 billion is public money.

                Mori indicated the opening ceremony, scheduled for July 23, could be troublesome with thousands of athletes and officials gathering to parade around the stadium. He also suggested the ceremony couldn’t be shortened, since television broadcasters had paid for the lucrative time. He said some officials might be cut out of the parade.

                Television determines much of the Olympic scheduling, and selling broadcast rights accounts for 73% of the IOC’s income. Another 18% is from large sponsors such as Coca-Cola and Toyota.

                The torch relay, which begins on March 25, will also face crowding with 10,000 runners expected across almost four months. Coca-Cola and Toyota are the prime sponsors.:

                Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                • #38
                  Tokyo Olympics organisers say cancellation report 'fake news'

                  TOKYO: Tokyo Olympics organisers played down a poll showing plunging support for the Games on Tuesday and said a report claiming cancellation could be discussed next month was "fake news".

                  The comments, less than 200 days before the postponed Games start in July, come with greater Tokyo under a state of emergency over a spike in coronavirus cases and with countries around the world battling outbreaks.

                  In a New Year's address to staff, Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto put a positive spin on a Kyodo news poll published Sunday showing 45 percent want the 2020 Games delayed again, with 35 percent favouring outright cancellation.

                  "The number of people calling for it to be cancelled has only risen by about five percent," Muto said.

                  "The number of people calling for it to be postponed has risen a lot, but that means those people still want it to be held," he added.

                  "Of course, for it to be held, we have to guarantee that we hold a safe Games with anti-virus measures. If you think of it in those terms, I firmly believe people will get more and more behind it."

                  Muto also dismissed as "fake news" a Japanese media report claiming the International Olympic Committee and Tokyo 2020 organisers would debate the fate of the Games in February.

                  "When these types of reports surface, some people might feel anxious about them," said Muto.

                  "I want to say that we are not thinking that way at all, and that these reports are wrong."

                  - Tokyo 2024? -

                  British rowing great Matthew Pinsent on Monday called for the Games to be cancelled and Tokyo to host the event in 2024 instead.

                  The four-time Olympic gold medallist tweeted that it would be "ludicrous" to host an event with thousands of people flying in unvaccinated.

                  Pinsent called for Tokyo to host the Games in 2024, with Paris taking over in 2028 and Los Angeles moving back to 2032.

                  Japan's government is expected to expand the state of emergency soon to several additional regions, and it has already lowered spectator caps at sports events in greater Tokyo to 5,000 people or 50% capacity, whichever is less.

                  And on Tuesday, rugby chiefs scrapped two games set for this weekend's domestic Top League season-opener after 46 people from four teams tested positive.

                  Tokyo 2020 organisers have drawn up a raft of anti-virus guidelines that they say will allow the Games to go ahead without a vaccine, and Muto said he was confident they will deliver after coming through the trials of last year.

                  "I think this is an amazing organisation," said Muto. "There had never been a postponement before in history, and that one word 'postponement' can't sum up the amount of work that needed to be done.

                  "We still have a lot to do but we have overcome a lot and that gives us a lot of confidence as an organising committee."

                  Japan is not expected to begin vaccination before late February.

                  Japanese media reported that Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates agreed Tuesday that vaccines must be distributed to developing countries to ensure the safety of the Games.:

                  Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                  • #39
                    Are the Olympics still going to happen in 2021? Here’s what we know.

                    That was the plan, after the International Olympic Committee and Japan, the host country, postponed the games last March because of the pandemic. But with the coronavirus still raging in many parts of the world, and the reality that the global vaccination campaign will take time, the question of whether it’s possible to safely hold the Olympics this year is reemerging.

                    A report in the Times of London set off the latest debate, with an unnamed senior member of Japan’s ruling coalition saying that the Japanese government had privately concluded the games will have to be canceled. “No one wants to be the first to say so but the consensus is that it’s too difficult,” the source said, per the Times. “Personally, I don’t think it’s going to happen.”

                    But Olympic and Japanese officials quickly denied those reports, insisting the games are still on.

                    The Japanese government called the reports “categorically untrue.” “I am determined to realize a safe and secure Tokyo Games as proof that mankind will have overcome the virus,” Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide told his country’s Parliament on Friday, according to the Washington Post.

                    The International Olympic Committee echoed Suga. “All parties involved are working together to prepare for a successful Games this summer,” the IOC said in a statement.

                    Thomas Bach, the head of the IOC, told Japan’s Kyodo News that his committee is determined to have the Olympics go on as scheduled, beginning July 23. “This is why there is no plan B and this is why we are fully committed to make these games safe and successful,” he said.

                    The Olympic Games debate is far from settled

                    This is just the beginning of an intense back-and-forth about the 2020, or 2021, Olympics.

                    The games were postponed in late March as the impossibility of holding a mass gathering that summer sank in. Lockdowns in countries around the world closed down training facilities and interrupted qualifying events, making athletes stressed and uncertain about the possibility of competition.

                    A lot has changed in a year. Scientists and public health officials better understand the coronavirus — and have a better sense of how to contain it. Yet even countries that have done better than others at controlling the pandemic continue to face dangerous flare-ups, Japan among them. Tokyo is under a state of emergency as it deals with its latest, and deadliest, pandemic wave.

                    Mary E. Wilson, a clinical professor at the University of California San Francisco and visiting professor at Harvard University, told me in March that the Olympics are basically the “ideal setting” for something like the coronavirus to spread.

                    “Even if things are under control in many places, bringing people together for the Olympic Games could help reignite infection in multiple other ways,” Wilson said.

                    The arrival of multiple vaccines offers a way out of all this, but the operational and logistical challenges of the global immunization campaign mean that, realistically, the world isn’t emerging from the pandemic anytime soon.

                    Japan, the Olympics host, has 127 million of its citizens to vaccinate; as the Associated Press reports, getting shots in everyone’s arms might be the only way to really safely host the games. But vaccinations haven’t begun yet, and won’t until late February.

                    Add to this the appearance of new variants of the coronavirus, which appear to be more contagious. There’s also still a question of how they will interact with new vaccines.

                    Though July is still months away, the Olympics are not exactly an easy operation to pull off at the last minute. Last year, some athletes criticized the IOC for insisting the games would go ahead, which seemed to many to be completely disconnected from what was happening around the world. And that uncertainty — should they try to train, or not train? — added to the frustration.

                    Finally, the Olympic Committees for individual countries began to pull their athletes out of the games, giving the IOC no choice but to make the decision to postpone the games. This time around, no country has yet announced it is pulling its athletes, but some leaders, including Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, have expressed doubts about Japan’s ability to execute the event.

                    The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee said in a statement that it had not received any news “suggesting the Games will not happen as planned, and our focus remains on the health and preparedness of Team USA athletes ahead of the Games this summer.”

                    And sports have resumed in many parts of the world, though some more safely than others. International athletic competition has resumed — without fans and with other restrictions — though nothing quite on the scale of the Olympics. And even then, Covid-19 usually manages to creep in.

                    The Australian Open tennis tournament, which officially begins next month in Melbourne, chartered flights for players and their entourages, who come from all over the world, and then required players to quarantine upon arrival. Some ended up having to face longer isolation periods because — you guessed it — some of the people on those chartered flights tested positive for Covid-19. At least one player then did as well.

                    Australia is allowing some fans at the Open this year, with restrictions. But Melbourne has also stamped out Covid-19 through some of the toughest restrictions in the world.

                    When it comes to the Olympics, postponement doesn’t seem to be an option this time around, which means it’s much more likely that if the relevant parties do finally decide it’s too risky to hold the games in July, the 2020 Games could be canceled for good. That’s only happened a few times before — in 1916, 1940, and 1944, all because of world wars.

                    Japan spent approximately $25 billion to organize the Olympics. Even if the country is able to host the games in the near future (the sites are already set for 2024, in Paris, and 2028, in Los Angeles), a cancellation might have it harder for Japan to get a return on that investment.

                    Athletes, some of whom get just one or two shots at the Olympics in their entire career, might not get another chance to compete if the 2020 Games are canceled. Simone Biles, a member of USA Gymnastics and the most decorated gymnast ever, told NBC’s Today Show on Friday that she hopes the Olympics can still go on, even if they’re in a bubble — a reference to the NBA’s strategy of isolating and testing athletes and coaching staff, who played games in an empty arena.

                    “Whatever they say they want us to do, I’m in 100%, because I’ve been training so hard, and I’ve just been so ready,” Biles said.

                    There’s a lot riding on these Olympic Games — for the athletes, for Japan, and, in some ways, for the world itself. Yes, it’s a bit cheesy, but as I wrote last March, the Olympics might be exactly what the world needs as it emerges, hopefully, from a pandemic. Olympic ideals — fair competition, solidarity, goodwill — may be the antidote to a world that feels as if it’s falling apart, even if the games can’t happen this summer.

                    More than a year into the pandemic, that feels truer than ever.:

                    Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                    • #40
                      IOC President Thomas Bach reiterates full commitment to Tokyo 2020 Games this year

                      The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games will go ahead as planned in 2021, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach reiterated on Wednesday (January 27th) following a meeting of the IOC Executive Board.

                      Appearing through video link after the meeting, Bach outlined the full commitment to "the successful and safe delivery of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, starting on 23 July with the Olympic Games and 24 August with the Paralympic Games.”

                      He added that all the federations responsible for the Olympic sports, and the National Olympic Committees (NOC's), had been involved in consultation calls in the past few days, and that "all of them are fully united and committed; all 206 National Olympic Committees, all the International Federations and the athletes are standing behind these Olympic Games."

                      "We see the same commitment on the Japanese side with the Japanese government, the Organising Committee and the Japanese Olympic Committee."

                      President Bach also revealed that the IOC would be publishing details of Covid-19 countermeasures for Tokyo 2020.

                      “Soon we will be able to release the first version of the so-called “playbooks” for the Games, which will explain the measures for the different stakeholder groups, to protect themselves and to protect others," he said.

                      "The first version of the playbooks will be presented to the National Olympic Committees and the Chefs de Mission at the beginning of February. So there, they – the NOCs, the athletes, everybody – can all trust that we are providing the facts and our planned countermeasures as the situation develops."

                      The IOC President rejected suggestions that the Games could be moved to a different year or held in another city.

                      "We will not speculate on when they will take place, but how they will take place."

                      Olympic gold medallist Bach also outlined a commitment from the IOC to become a "climate positive" organisation by 2024, and align with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

                      The IOC is already carbon neutral, but this move will see the Lausanne-based company offset more than 100 per cent of its remaining carbon emissions, mainly through the Olympic Forest project.:

                      Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                      • #41
                        Japanese mostly opposed to Tokyo Olympics this summer – poll

                        A majority of Japanese remain opposed to holding the Olympics this summer amid the coronavirus pandemic but the ratio lowered significantly from recent polls, a Yomiuri newspaper poll showed on Monday.

                        Some 28% of respondents said they want the Olympics to be cancelled and the same ratio of people think they should be held without spectators, the poll showed.

                        The Yomiuri poll showed a combined 61% wanting the Games to be postponed or cancelled altogether, around 20% points lower than recent opinion polls.

                        Just 36% of the public are in favour of holding the Tokyo Olympics this summer, of which 28% are calling for no spectators while the remaining 8% back allowing spectators.

                        The Tokyo Olympic Games were postponed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and rescheduled to take place this year starting on July 23.

                        Some 56% expected the coronavirus pandemic to remain unchanged in the summer, while 37% anticipated improvement and 3% saw it getting worse. Some 70% believed the vaccination would help resolve the situation, outweighing those who saw no containment. :

                        Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                        • #42
                          Japan's seven-time Olympian turned politician Seiko Hashimoto announced Thursday that she is taking over as head of the Tokyo 2020 Games, following the resignation of her predecessor after sexist remarks he made were leaked to the media.

                          In a Games executive board meeting, Hashimoto said she would "bear a heavy responsibility as chair of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics" and was "fully determined" to hold a successful event, set to take place between July 23 and August 8.

                          Hashimoto, 56, told reporters earlier Thursday that she had handed in her resignation as Olympics Minister to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

                          "It was a big decision for me to resign as minister," Hashimoto said.

                          Hashimoto competed in four Winter Olympics as a speed skater and three Summer Olympics as a cyclist. She won bronze -- her only medal -- in the 1,500-meter speed skating at the 1992 Winter Olympics.

                          Her appointment as the Tokyo 2020 chief comes after Yoshiro Mori, 83, stepped down from the role last week over sexist remarks he made about women.:

                          Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                          • #43
                            Japan’s Olympic hopes rest on a successful Covid-19 vaccine drive

                            Officials in Japan say a successful coronavirus vaccination drive is vital to the country’s ability to host the delayed 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo this summer. Yet the country has been far slower than many of its peers to begin rolling out vaccines, only approving its first one this past weekend.

                            Now, with just five months to go before the games are scheduled to take place, Japan’s government is racing against time to get its population vaccinated.

                            In November, the American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and the German biotech firm BioNTech reported the results of the phase 3 trial of their Covid-19 vaccine, which found it to be more than 90 percent effective at preventing infection. Within weeks, several countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, issued emergency use authorizations for the drug.

                            But Japan didn’t accept the results of the Pfizer study. Instead, it asked Pfizer to do additional trials with Japanese participants. Japan’s request was meant to help alleviate concerns that not enough Asian, and particularly Japanese, candidates had been included in Pfizer’s trial.

                            Finally, on February 14, Japan approved Pfizer’s vaccine, two months after the US and the UK began their campaigns. While some have argued that the additional wait time, which only led to testing 160 Japanese participants, wasn’t worth the trouble, Japan’s vaccination point person Taro Kono defended the delay at a press conference on Tuesday.

                            “It was more important for the government to show the Japanese people that everything was done” to get everyone on board with getting vaccinated, Kono said.

                            Kono’s comment underscores the importance of gaining public trust in Japan, a country ranked among the lowest in the world for vaccine confidence.

                            And right now in Japan, confidence in the vaccine is seriously needed.:

                            Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                            • #44
                              Organizers issue health rules with Olympic torch relay set to start in one month (March 25th)

                              The torch relay for the postponed Tokyo Olympics is set to start in a month, which should be a sign that the troubled Games are on track to begin July 23.

                              It was at this stage at the start of the torch relay just under a year ago -- just after the Olympic flame arrived from Greece -- that the Olympics were postponed because of the coronavirus.

                              Organizers on Thursday read out a list of rules regarding health measures for the 10,000 torchbearers and others who are to take part, including fans. They also cautioned that changes to the route or runners could come without much notice.

                              "No shouting, no cheering. Please cheer by clapping your hands and maintain appropriate distance in case there is overcrowding," Yukihiko Nunomura, the vice director general or the organizing committee, told a briefing.

                              Torchbearers will be allowed to run without wearing a mask, but all others are required to wear one.

                              The relay begins March 25 from the northeastern prefecture of Fukushima and will crisscross the country. It ends July 23 at the opening ceremony in the National Stadium in Tokyo.

                              Fukushima is the part of Japan that was heavily damaged on March 11, 2011, by an earthquake, tsunami and the meltdown of three nuclear reactors.

                              The precise starting point of the relay will be J-Village, located in the town of Naraha.

                              There was talk after the postponement of dropping all or part of the torch relay for safety reasons, or to save money and simplify the Games.

                              But it was kept, partly because it is a heavily sponsored event backed by Coca-Cola and Toyota, and other large sponsors such as Nippon Telegraph and Telephone, Nippon Life Insurance, Panasonic, All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines, and Visa.

                              Local sponsors have poured in about $3.5 billion to these Olympics, many without much chance of a return because of the COVID-19 pandemic, limited tourism (if any) for the Games and the one-year delay.

                              The local sponsorship contribution is at least twice as large as any previous Olympics.

                              The International Olympic Committee and organizers announced earlier this month the so-called Playbooks for the Olympics. They spell out how the Olympics in Tokyo will be held. They are to be updated in April and June with more details.

                              The cost of the Tokyo Olympics continues to soar. The official price tag is $15.4 billion, but Olympic costs are notoriously difficult to track. Several government audits have said costs are at least $25 billion and maybe more.:

                              Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                              • #45
                                Tokyo Olympics will be closed to fans from abroad, hints Games organizer

                                The new president of the Tokyo Olympic organising committee has hinted that foreign fans will not be allowed at this summer’s Games amid reports in the Japanese press that a decision had already been made to exclude them.

                                “If the situation is tough and it would make the [Japanese] consumers concerned, that is a situation we need to avoid from happening,” the committee president, Seiko Hashimoto, told reporters after online talks with the International Olympic Committee president, Thomas Bach.

                                The Japanese newspaper Mainichi stated on Wednesday before the meeting with Bach that officials had already made up their minds ahead of a final announcement on the foreign fans situation expected by the end of the month. The press report cited only unnamed sources “involved in the discussions”.

                                Citing an anonymous government official, Mainichi reported: “In the current situation it is impossible to bring in foreign spectators.”

                                Hashimoto was questioned after the meeting as to how Japan could even consider letting in thousands of overseas fans, given how unpopular the idea is at home, where up to 80% want the Olympics cancelled or postponed again. She confirmed the subject of fans was a key part of the talks with Bach, the International Paralympic committee president, Andrew Parsons, the Tokyo governor, Yuriko Koike, and the Olympic minister, Tamayo Marukawa.

                                Bach hinted at hard choices to be made in comments before the meeting was closed to reporters. “We will focus on the essentials,” he said. “That means mainly the competitions. This has to be the clear focus. In this respect we may have to set one or another priority.”

                                The games will involve 11,000 Olympic athletes and later 4,400 Paralympians, and tens of thousands of coaches, judges, sponsors, media and VIPs. Bach said he was encouraged at the number of national Olympic committees that were getting athletes vaccinated. The IOC said it encourages vaccinations but will not require them.

                                Bach said his hope was “to have as many participants as possible arriving vaccinated to Tokyo”, adding: “I can inform you that a considerable number of national Olympic committees has already secured this pre-Tokyo vaccination.”

                                The plan is to isolate athletes in the Olympic Village alongside Tokyo Bay, putting them in a bubble when they arrive and until they leave Japan.

                                Hashimoto said a decision on venue capacity will be made by the end of April. She said the “zero-fans option” was not discussed. “We need to look at the overall situation before we decide on any percentage rates. We believe we will not be accepted unless the citizens feel confident that sufficient countermeasures are taken.”:

                                Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


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