Covid-19 was the biggest organizational challenge and according to the hosts and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Tokyo 2020 has managed to overcome it
The Tokyo Games reach their final stretch after having managed to avoid an outbreak of infections within the Olympic bubble that would put the competition at risk, but with open debate about its relationship to the record rise of the coronavirus across Japan.
Covid-19 was the greatest organizational challenge faced by the first Games in history, developed in the middle of a pandemic, and according to the hosts and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Tokyo 2020 has managed to overcome it successfully.
Throughout the Japanese archipelago, infections have been on the rise since weeks before the sporting event and have skyrocketed in recent days, which is attributed to the spread of the delta variant and, according to some health experts, to the celebration of the Games.
A ‘parallel world’ in Tokyo 2020
The strict anti-contagion sanitary protocol, which included the strict restriction of the movements of the participants in the Games and their constant testing, prevented the occurrence of a single infection between those involved in the event and the local population and vice versa, according to data from the hosts.
Among the tens of thousands of athletes, committee representatives, journalists and other participants in the Games, 404 coronavirus infections have been detected since the beginning of July, among them 29 athletes and none with serious symptoms.
In addition to being vaccinated 90% of them, the participants in Tokyo 2020 have undergone constant tests for the virus, especially the athletes, on a daily basis. Nearly 600,000 PCR tests have been carried out, of which 0.02% yielded a positive result.
These data demonstrate “the effectiveness” of the anti-covid strategy applied and have turned the interior of the Olympic bubble into “one of the communities most tested, most vaccinated and subjected to the strictest preventive measures in the world,” as he said the day before. IOC President Thomas Bach.
The situation in the restricted Olympic zone contrasts with that of all of Japan, where only 32% of the population has been vaccinated and in the last week there have been more than 15,000 daily infections, the maximum since the start of the pandemic and despite the health emergency declared in Tokyo and other regions.
The main adviser to the Japanese Government in the fight against the virus, Dr. Shigeru Omi, has stated on several occasions that the celebration of the Games has affected “collective sentiment” and caused a relaxation of the Japanese in respecting recommendations of authorities such as staying home or avoiding family and friends gatherings.
Spinning with the heat
The high temperatures and humidity usual in summer in Tokyo have been the other major headache during these Games, although they were a very predictable factor and that he had already forced the IOC to move the walking and marathon events to Sapporo (north).
The strong complaints of athletes, among them the number one in world tennis, Novak Djokovic, or the Spanish Garbiñe Muguruza, were heard by the organizers to delay the schedules of the final tennis phase, after the Spanish Paula Badosa had to withdraw from the tournament due to heat stroke.
Schedules for other competitions such as the women’s soccer final or others such as the women’s marathon were also delayed due to the heat, announced just a few hours before on the eve of the event.
The chief executive of Tokyo 2020, Hidemasa Nakamura, justified these last minute decisions noting that the hosts “have tried to be flexible and adapt to the circumstances”, in addition to “listening to the voices of the athletes”, in a press conference this Saturday.
The ‘kidnapping’ of the Belarusian athlete
The moment of greatest diplomatic tension in these Games occurred with the attempted forced repatriation of the Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, who asked the Japanese police for help when her national committee tried to take her back to her country against her will.
The athlete, who feared reprisals for having criticized Alexandr Lukashenko’s regime, took refuge in the Polish Embassy, a country that also granted her humanitarian asylum as it has done with other Belarusian exiles, while the IOC announced that it was opening an investigation into the case and Japan avoided getting involved.
The international sports body later decided to expel two Belarusian coaches from the Games for their role in what the athlete described as “attempted kidnapping,” and did not rule out additional sanctions against the country’s national committee, led by Viktor Lukashenko, son of the President, and whose position is not recognized by the IOC.
The Games have passed without major shocks for the organizers, who also decided to sanction or give attention to athletes who skipped the sanitary protocols to take walks around the city -something strictly prohibited- or to have parties inside the Villa Olympic