New Rules for Olympic Athletes as Tokyo Presses on With Games

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Athletes at the delayed Tokyo Olympic Games this summer will need to take daily coronavirus tests, a stricter requirement than previously announced.

All participants are also required to take two Covid-19 tests before flying to Japan, according to the updated “Playbook” of anti-virus measures released Wednesday. The document was prepared by the Tokyo Organizing Committee, the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee.

If athletes violate the guidelines, a disciplinary commission will take appropriate measures though there is no precise process yet, IOC Executive Director Christophe Dubi said at a press conference. Vaccination of athletes will remain non-obligatory as accessibility and priority differ from country to country, and doesn’t offer 100% protection, he said.

Scrutiny over hosting the world’s biggest sporting event during a pandemic has increased in recent weeks. Over 10,000 athletes and more than 50,000 others are expected to gather, even after foreign spectators have been banned. Experts fear that inadequate infection measures could lead to a superspreader event.

Tokyo and other urban areas entered their third state of emergency this month as infections rose, partially due to the spread of new virus variants. Covid-19 vaccinations have started on the island nation, but are moving at a slow pace, with less than 2% of the population inoculated.

Japan’s borders have been effectively shut to non-citizens and non-residents during the pandemic. Tokyo reported this week its first confirmed case of the virus variant that’s spreading widely in India.

Domestic Spectators

The new guidelines have been “reviewed and significantly updated in order to address the emergence of new mutant coronavirus,” according to a joint statement on the updated playbook released following a five-party meeting, including Tokyo 2020 and the IOC.

The first version of the playbook, released in February, had indicated that participants would be tested at least every four days. Organizers have already told teams they would effectively be living in a bubble, asked them to refrain from joining events as spectators, and to avoid using public transport.

Seiko Hashimoto, the head of Japan’s Olympic Organizing Committee, said Wednesday the games could be held without domestic spectators, though if the situation allows she’d like to have people at the games. A decision is expected by June.

The February playbook marked an important step in outlining the conditions under which the games can take place, however it excluded many details, including how participants would be tested and who would be defined as a “close contact.”

That’s now someone who has been within one meter, without wearing a face mask for at least 15 minutes of a person with a confirmed positive Covid-19 test.

Updated versions of separate playbooks for press, marketing partners and other non-athlete roles at the games are expected on Friday, while a final version is scheduled for June.

“Version 3 is when we have the final response to the situation in Japan, and around the globe,” said Dubi.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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