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Tokyo Olympics: ‘There is no plan’ for staging Games in a pandemic

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The most complex Olympics ever put on hold took place on Friday after an unprecedented logistical effort to preserve the scale of the Tokyo Games while avoiding a debilitating fire of coronavirus.

Previous Olympics have been plagued by boycotts, corruption scandals, doping controversies and terrorist attacks. But nothing in the 125-year history of the Modern Games prepared him to be held in the teeth of a global pandemic.

“It’s by far the most complex and difficult ever because there is no plan for it,” said Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee. “We had to invent things to date.”

The estimated $ 800m in additional costs came from the decision to postpone the Games for a year instead of canceling the event altogether. This has resulted in a struggle to renegotiate thousands of commercial contracts, from hotel reservations to sponsorship offers.

The CIO said it had also identified $ 280 million in savings, as it cut its workforce, but the size of the Games has been largely maintained: 33 sporting events and 339 medals will be held at 42 venues across Japan. . About 11,000 Olympic athletes and 4,400 Paralympic athletes are expected to arrive in the coming weeks alongside thousands more coaches, judges and other officials.

The holding of the Games will protect the CIO’s global broadcasting and sponsorship contracts, which were worth $ 5.7 billion in the four years following the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro. The final costs fall disproportionately on Japan. Local sponsors have stumped tens of millions of dollars in extra payments while the decision to hold the Games without spectators forces Tokyo taxpayers to reimburse 90 billion yen ($ 816 million) in ticket sales.

The extra expense went to create an “bubble” of the Olympics. All overseas delegates are tracked on specially designed apps to ensure they visit only the Olympic venues, and are largely cut off from the rest of the city. Delegates are allowed to travel outside of their hotels for 15 minutes at a time to visit the convention shops. Discover intentionally for any more risks of being kicked out of the competition.

Athletes, officials and everyone close to the playing field should provide daily saliva samples © Michael Kappeler / dpa

The problems are already mounting. The tracking app does not work for all delegates. Some media outlets were forced to be quarantined in their hotel room for 14 days after sitting next to someone on a plane to Tokyo who subsequently tested positive.

The 70-page “playbooks” describing exhaustive “countermeasures” against the virus have been updated three times in recent weeks, creating confusion around the rules. Competitors must wear masks almost always to save food, sleep and compete. Transparent acrylic screens were installed in the Olympic venues to limit contact between the participants. But the measures did not deter most competitors.

“I can honestly say that there was no athlete who didn’t want to travel to Tokyo,” said Andy Anson, chief executive of the British Olympic Committee. “That’s the culmination and I’m desperate to go.”

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Many, however, skip precious Olympic traditions as they attend opening or closing ceremonies. “It gives you more time to get into your head,” said Clayton Murphy, the bronze medalist in defense in the men’s 800-meter dash. “You can stay in the country and focus.”

A worker cleans the tables in the press center for the Tokyo Games
A worker cleans the tables in the press center for the Tokyo Games. The scale of the event has been maintained despite numerous contrasts: 33 sporting events and 339 medals will be held at 42 venues across Japan © Noriko Hayashi / Bloomberg

The CIO has done business with the pharmaceutical company Pfizer and the Chinese government to procure vaccines, which have been distributed through national health services or at specially created centers in the United States and Qatar. About 85 percent of athletes are expected to be inoculated before reaching Tokyo.

The main defense against a fire will be the collection of hundreds of thousands of Covid tests. Athletes, officials and anyone close to the “playground” should be provided with saliva samples every day. A “fever clinic” will treat all identified cases, isolating them from others in the Olympic Village. Strict competition programs mean that even a false positive test will probably lead to missing out on the opportunity to compete.

Athletes were warned not to interact with those of other nations and to leave Japan within 48 hours of their competition ending. The dining room at the Olympic Village was divided into separate zones, with competitors divided according to the prevalence of the Delta variant of coronavirus in their countries.

The traditional party atmosphere has also been softened. To prevent close contact, tens of thousands of condoms will be distributed as souvenirs to athletes leaving the country, rather than receiving them on arrival as in previous Games.

“In London in 2012, I had my whole family here. I’ve been able to go to town and experience hospitality and all these cool things but we won’t have it this time around, ”said Will Claye, a long-distance U.S. jumper who competes in his third Olympics. . “I’m just going to deal with business at this point.”

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