Expectation and resignation one month ahead of the pandemic's Olympics Games

Since announcing the postponement of the sporting competition until the summer of 2021, the organisers have been working against the clock
The run-up to this year's Olympics has been like no other. After a historic pandemic postponement, organisers refused to pull the plug, despite the risks of infection, travel restrictions and persistent public opposition.

AFP/BEHROUZ MEHRI  -   The run-up to this year's Olympics has been like no other. After a historic pandemic postponement, organisers refused to pull the plug, despite the risks of infection, travel restrictions and persistent public opposition.

The Japanese people are waiting with both anticipation and resignation for the Tokyo Olympics, which a month before the opening of the Games have defined their key measures to protect themselves against the pandemic and adopted a bubble and reduced format.

Since announcing the postponement of the sporting competition until the summer of 2021, the organisers have been working against the clock to renegotiate contracts, design infection prevention measures and reorganise the dimensions of a festive event that will be bittersweet in its next edition.

To deliver on their promise of a "safe" Games, they rely on a set of guidelines that include subjecting participants to frequent, even daily, testing; limiting their movements and restricting the number of spectators, including an unprecedented ban on fans from abroad.

El presidente del Comité Organizador de los Juegos Olímpicos de Tokio 2020, Seiko Hashimoto, y el director general, Toshiro Muto, asisten a una rueda de prensa tras una reunión con el grupo de trabajo de los municipios locales organizada por el Gobierno en Tokio, Japón, el 23 de junio de 2021
REUTERS/ISSEI KATO - Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Organising Committee President Seiko Hashimoto and CEO Toshiro Muto attend a news conference after a meeting with the local municipalities working group organised by the government in Tokyo, Japan, June 23, 2021.
Test, test, test

Among its key anti-COVID-19 measures is a strict testing regime, which includes making it mandatory for all arrivals from outside Japan to submit several negative tests prior to boarding, another test upon arrival and daily testing during the event, if possible.

Once inside, those arriving from territories where new strains are present will be required to isolate themselves for at least three days before training or moving between organiser-approved facilities to minimise contact with the population.

Alongside this, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has strongly promoted vaccination and claims that more than 80 per cent of Olympic Village residents will arrive inoculated.

It remains to be seen whether the measure could become a further headache for participants, given the case of a Ugandan Olympic delegation coach who tested positive on his recent arrival in Japan, despite the fact that the entire team is vaccinated and had previously tested negative.

Entrada principal del Estadio Nacional, el miércoles 23 de junio de 2021, en Tokio
PHOTO/AP - Main entrance of the National Stadium, Wednesday, June 23, 2021, in Tokyo.
Limited spectators

In addition to the tight control of athletes, who have been asked to wear masks at all times and to avoid hugging or high-fiving in their celebrations, there are also restrictions on the public.

After months of uncertainty, and in contravention of health experts' recommendations as the Japanese capital maintains restrictions due to lingering infections, Tokyo 2020 organisers announced this week that they will allow spectators into Olympic stadiums.

The total number of public will be limited to half the capacity of the events, up to a maximum of 10,000 fans, and the authorities reserve the right to hold events behind closed doors in case the epidemiological situation worsens.

For 83-year-old Games volunteer Mikio Watanuki, having spectators in the stands is essential and he would even advocate increasing them.

"If I were the athlete, I imagine I wouldn't be able to give 100 per cent in my performance without an audience," the Japanese athlete, who hoped to be able to take advantage of his 11 years of studying Spanish at the Games, told Efe.

In contrast, Shimicchi, an equestrian fan who travelled to the Olympic Stadium on these dates, believes that the organisers "should control the public more".

"If they don't cut down on spectators, when the Games are over it could be a repeat of last year's Go To (tourism promotion) campaign, which left contagions all over Japan," he says, although he is looking forward to the opening of the event on 23 July.

While during the first half of the year a large majority of Japanese (more than 80%) supported a further postponement or cancellation of the Games, recent polls show that half now favour going ahead with them.

Un reloj de cuenta atrás muestra los 30 días que faltan para la ceremonia de apertura de los Juegos Olímpicos de Tokio 2020, el miércoles 23 de junio de 2021
AP/KIICHIRO SATO - A countdown clock shows the 30 days remaining until the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on Wednesday 23 June 2021.
Limited Celebrations

Even with an audience in the stands, the atmosphere at the Games is still a bit sour. Organisers have asked spectators not to cheer loudly and to find alternatives such as clapping to express their joy "from the heart".

They also said no alcoholic drinks would be sold at the venue and urged fans to go straight home as soon as the event was over, without celebrating.

Suzuki Hidenori, director ejecutivo adjunto de marketing y director principal de la venta de entradas de Tokio 2020, da una explicación del proceso de gestión de entradas tras la decisión sobre los límites máximos de espectadores durante una conferencia de prensa en la sede del Comité Organizador de los Juegos Olímpicos y Paralímpicos de Tokio en Tokio el miércoles 23 de junio de 2021
PHOTO/AP - Suzuki Hidenori, Tokyo 2020 deputy executive director of marketing and senior director of ticket sales, gives an explanation of the ticket management process following the decision on spectator ceilings during a press conference at the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games headquarters in Tokyo Wednesday, June 23, 2021.

The authorities in Tokyo and the neighbouring prefectures of Chiba and Saitama, where some events will be held, have cancelled all fan zones where they had planned to set up giant screens for viewing the competitions.

So "there is less opportunity to enjoy it," says Kana, a 29-year-old Tokyoite walking her dogs in Tokyo 2020 attire, who would like the organisers to raffle off more tickets for the stadiums. There will indeed be a lottery, but to decide which lucky buyers will get in and which will not.