The long-awaited Olympics to be held in Tokyo, Japan this summer once again faces another obstacle. Already postponed from last year in 2020, the Tokyo Olympic Committee prepared to hold the global competition this year, the first time its been out of the classic 4-year cycle aside from the world wars of the 20th century.
After a year of living through the coronavirus, Japan was ready to hold a semi-regular Olympic summer with spectators and globally welcomed sports and athletes. However, reality posed a different situation with a small percentile of citizens vaccinated and the sudden wave of the COVID-19 variants. Less than 30% of citizens have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, increasing transmission rates.
On Thursday, the Japanese government announced it would strictly place COVID-19 prevention measures. Soon after, they released that no spectators would be allowed to attend events in certain districts like Tokyo City. As of July 9, only certain areas hit by emergency warning have been shut off to spectators. Olympic organizers are still currently debating whether to close off other events in the nearby cities and stadiums depending on the government and ethical responses.
Seiko Hashimoto, the Tokyo Olympic 2020 Head Chair, stated that authorized coaches, Olympic officials, foreign dignitaries, and other Games stakeholders would still have access to the Olympics and their venues.
In terms of COVID-19, Japan has abruptly reached new highs of cases each day. On Wednesday, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government reported 920 cases. This new high is approximately 200 infections higher than the record high back in May 2021.
Dr. Shigeru Omi, a top government medical advisor, warned to the Olympic Committee and the citizens of Japan that “infections are in their expansion phase and everyone in this country must firmly understand the seriousness of it.”
For prevention measures, the committee is placing daily testing requirements for all main attendees including athletes and coaches. As main attendees are considered “Level 1” in Tokyo’s testing plans, other groups of people will be tested to varying frequencies according to their proximity to the “level 1” people. For example, broadcasters and Marketing Partners are required to be tested every 4 days instead.
Certain athletes have rejected the new rule and removed themselves from participating in the 2023 Olympics.