The Tokyo Olympics will finally take place this year, but arenas will be quieter than in past years for this much-anticipated mega-event. This time, sports fans from other regions of the world are forbidden from physically visiting the events.
With only a few months until the Olympic cauldron is officially lit, the organisers are still considering several measures. In this post, we share everything that you need to know about this year’s much-awaited sporting event, and what to expect amid the coronavirus pandemic that’s still largely impacting the world today.
Tokyo Games: Everything You Need to Know About this Upcoming International Event
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) declared in the early months of 2020 that the annual sporting event would be postponed because of the threats posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made the suggestion alongside International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach. “I have proposed postponing the event for a year. President Bach stated that he was completely on board with it. We plan to hold the Olympics in the summer of 2021.”
Here’s an update from the Tokyo Olympics Committee, as reported by NBC News / YouTube:
But now that the event is all set to happen starting July 23, here are the changes you can expect from this year’s international sporting event:
THE OLYMPICS RETAIN 2020 BRANDING
This year’s summer Olympics will not be referred to as the “2021 Olympics.” The OIC and Tokyo organizers agreed that the 2020 Olympics branding will be retained for the upcoming sports event, which means that television ads, publication materials, souvenirs, and even medals will still bear the “Tokyo 2020” name and theme.
NO OVERSEAS SPECTATORS
Sports fans from other regions of the world are unlikely to swarm to Tokyo’s stadiums. In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Japanese government has decided to prohibit foreign spectators from attending the Olympics.
As of this writing, Japan, a country with a population of 126.3 million people, had previously reported 468,614 instances of COVID-19.
The event’s organizers anticipated to make $15 billion from the Olympics, but they are already refunding tickets to foreigners. The organizers are still debating whether to let international viewers who have been invited by business sponsors of the events.
WHERE AND WHEN CAN PEOPLE WATCH THE OLYMPICS
The Tokyo Olympics are scheduled to take place from July 23 to August 8, 2021. The swimming and gymnastics competitions will most likely take center stage in the first week, with the track and field events wrapping out the tournament.
The summer games will be held in 43 Olympic venues throughout Tokyo; those who do not live in Japan can watch them via NBC’s live stream coverage.
WHAT WILL THE GAMES LOOK LIKE?
This spring, Japan has been hit hard by COVID-19, leading to the introduction of a dangerous new strain named “Eek,” which scientists claim includes a mutation that decreases vaccine protection. As recently as last month, hospitals were practically overcapacity, forcing people to be treated at home or wait to be admitted to a medical facility, according to The Guardian. It is part of the current fourth wave of infections in the country. In May, Japan reached a high of approximately 6,200 cases per day.
To ensure the safety of COVID-19 participants, Japan is now prohibiting foreign spectators from attending events.
Vaccines are not necessary for competitors prior to arrival, but they will be made available to Olympic authorities and participants thanks to gifts from Pfizer and BioNTech. Nonathletes (coaches and officials) will be checked daily for the first three days after arrival and then “regularly” (though it is still unclear how frequently this will be).
Moreover, unlike in a non-pandemic year when visiting athletes might tour the area, tourists have been instructed not to visit bars, restaurants, or take public transit. Athletes have also been encouraged to socially remove themselves when they are not in a sports situation, which, as The Cut points out, puts a damper on potential romping at the fabled “horny Olympic Village.” Hugs and high fives are “discouraged,” and masks are usually required.
WHAT ARE THE HIGHLIGHTS TO WATCH OUT FOR?
For one, there’s Simone Biles. According to CBS News, the iconic gymnast will seek to become the first woman in more than 50 years to win back-to-back Olympic titles.
Moreover, the 2021 games will also see the debut of various new sports, such as skateboarding.
Other high-profile performances to watch include the United States women’s national soccer team, led by Megan Rapinoe, seeking redemption after finishing fifth in the 2016 Olympics in Brazil; Naomi Osaka, who recently gained attention after discussing mental health and withdrawing from the French Open, representing Japan in tennis; and basketball stars LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.
JAPAN’S MINDSET AND PLAN OF ACTION
Despite all the setbacks and threat of the raging pandemic to this well-loved sporting event, the president of the Japanese Olympic Committee now believes that the host country’s top concern should be safeguarding the safety of athletes from all over the world, rather than the number of gold medals won by its national team.
The pandemic has sparked concerns about fairness in the global athletic event since athletes in some countries have been subjected to strict lockdowns while others have not.
Olympians in Japan and around the world have found it challenging to be fully prepared and physically fit.
The 64-year-old said it’s terrible that the main issue around the Olympics has been “whether to preserve the Japanese public’s health or ignore it and have the Olympics and Paralympics.”
The IOC released the most recent versions of the so-called playbooks, which define coronavirus mitigation actions to be followed by athletes, staff, and workers during the games, in mid-June.
Among other things, the organizers have prohibited the consumption and sale of alcohol at venues, as well as loud cheering by fans, with ticket sales limited to 50% of venue capacity, up to 10,000 people.
He understands the struggles that athletes in Japan and other nations experience.
“When the COVID-19 state of emergency was established following the postponing decision (in March last year), many Japanese athletes felt uncomfortable and terrible about practicing under such circumstances,” said the JOC president, who also serves as president of the All Japan Judo Federation.
Since the virus’s breakout, the Japanese government has declared three states of emergency, with Tokyo under the measure for nearly every month this year.