Don’t forget the word: playbook.
This is the rule book that will be rolled out next week by the IOC and Tokyo organisers to explain how 15,400 Olympic and Paralympic athletes and tens of thousands more will try to enter Japan safely when the Olympics open in just under six months.
With their planning, organisers and the International Olympic Committee are finally going public, hoping to push back against reports that the Olympics will be cancelled with Tokyo and much of Japan still in a state of emergency with increasing cases of COVID-19.
The rollout is scheduled for Feb. 4 at Switzerland’s Olympic headquarters, with Tokyo likely to appear on Feb. 5.
“We created four different scenarios, one with travel restrictions, clusters, one where the pandemic was almost gone,” explained Lucia Montanarella, head of IOC media operations, to a panel discussion held by the International Sports Press Association on Tuesday.
“The present scenario is very much like one of those that we’d created, with the pandemic still among us, and some countries being able to contain it, some not.”
The playbook will be about creating secure bubbles in Tokyo, and as the July 23 opening gets closer, it will be updated with changing protocols. On Aug. 24, the Paralympics are scheduled to open.
Coaches, judges, media, broadcasters, VIPS, athletes and those travelling to Japan are likely to face some period of self-quarantine before they leave home. This will be followed by airport tests, tests arriving in Japan, and frequent testing for those staying next to Tokyo Bay in the Athletes Village.
“We know that we are facing a huge challenge, which is to create a bubble for all athletes,” Montanarella said. One thing is creating a bubble in just one sport for 200 athletes, and a very different thing is creating a bubble for thousands of athletes in different sports.
Fans are involved in a major unanswered question. How many fans are supposed to be allowed into venues? Will overseas fans be permitted?
Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto said Tuesday that “by the spring,” the decision will be revealed. Less fans mean more Japanese costs. It was estimated that the local organising committee would earn $800 million from ticket sales. Japanese government departments would need to make up any deficit.
Craig Spence, spokesman for the International Paralympic Committee, said in polls showing that 80 percent of those surveyed believe the Olympics should be cancelled or postponed, organisers must get the help of the Japanese public.
If you are an athlete or a stakeholder, until you pass a negative test, you will not be able to get on a plane,” Spence told the Associated Press.” “That should reassure people when you see the number of tests we are going to do (on site).”
IOC President Thomas Bach, who has said that vaccinations are not ‘compulsory,’ is also calling for the vaccination of all participants. Earlier this week, the World Health Organization said that Olympic athletes should not have priority over health care staff, the elderly and the vulnerable.
The IOC has seen its high-profile representatives openly speak out.
On Wednesday, IOC member Sebastian Coe was on Japanese television, and IOC member Dick Pound proposed prioritising athletes last week as the “most realistic way of going ahead.” He received strong resistance.
The IOC gets almost 75 percent of its revenue from the sale of broadcasting rights. Tokyo may be worth $2 billion to $3 billion in rights sales, rendering Japan’s games an economic necessity, even though it becomes a television-only case in particular.
“With a number of demands, this is a challenging project,” IOC Executive Board member Gerardo Werthein told Infobae, the Argentine news site. “Circumstances force us, and it’s a big challenge, to do these things.”
Japan has more than 5,000 deaths due to COVID-19, but with deaths and new cases increasing, its health care system is under stress. Next month, but later in spring for most of the general public, a vaccine rollout is anticipated.
When asked about the Olympics and potential patients from abroad, the president of the Japan Medical Association sounded an alert last week.
Dr. Toshio Nakagawa said, “Many people will come from abroad, and that’s a huge number, even with only athletes.” In this case, if patients with coronavirus present among them when a medical system failure is occurring and spreading, they cannot be admitted. Until a miracle occurs, such as the sudden successful rollout of the vaccine, or a cure is unexpectedly discovered, we can not allow more patients.