“Must for humanity”: tokyo makers scramble for olympics

World’s oldest woman to serve as sign of hope for tokyo olympics organizers. At the age of 118 years, kane tanaka died on 11. May 2021 to carry the olympic torch on the way to the summer games in japan’s capital city.

That’s how far the optimism of the planners for the ring spectacle, which has been postponed for a year, goes these days. Despite the sharp rise in the number of corona infections in many countries, doubts about the feasibility of outstanding qualification competitions and the cost risks, the host and the IOC are pressing ahead with preparations for the olympic games.

"I want to reaffirm that hosting the games next year is more than ever a must for humanity," says the head of the organizing committee, yoshiro mori. The formula of tokyo as a "beacon of hope" has been copied by the 83-year-old former minister-president of IOC chief thomas bach, who is also unstinting in his praise of the japanese efforts to save the games. "Be assured that we are developing a toolbox of measures against corona for every conceivable scenario," asserts international olympic committee president.

On sunday, bach will travel to tokyo; a meeting with the new head of government yoshihide suga is also planned, according to the media. "This visit comes at an important time," bach said, immediately countering rumors from japan that the final cancellation of the games was to be announced on this occasion. "The answer is no," the 66-year-old assured when asked if this scenario would be discussed during his flying visit.

Rather, the four-day trip is probably intended to dispel the stubborn doubts of the japanese and many others about the olympic spectacle. After the visit, "athletes and participants in the games will be able to feel even more confident about the safe environment for the games in nine months," said bach. Minister-president suga had also made a commitment to the tokyo games shortly after taking office. Organizers also rely on symbolic politics, as with the recent opening of the tokyo aquatics center for the olympic swimming competitions.

The olympic organizers were boosted last weekend by a gymnastics competition that brought top international athletes to japan for the first time in months. "This is a very important thing for the whole sports world," bach called out to the 30 athletes from russia, china, the u.S. And japan via video message.

However, all foreign participants had to spend two weeks in quarantine in their home countries beforehand. On arrival at the hotel, they were strictly segregated by nation on different floors, allowed only to shuttle between accommodation and the yoyogi national gymnasium. In the hall, competition equipment was frequently cleaned and disinfected between practices, and the 2,000 spectators were required to wear masks and keep their distance.

A foretaste of the olympic competitions? For weeks, a task force of the organizers has been wrestling with the rules for games under corona conditions. It’s not just about the 11.000 athletes, but also thousands of officials, helpers, media representatives and, last but not least, the question of spectators. Japan currently has entry bans in place for a rough part of the world.

At least for all those directly involved this ban could be lifted. Teams and athletes could be divided into many individual bubbles. An outpatient care facility for corona cases is to be built in the vicinity of the olympic village, and the canteen will probably only serve pre-packaged meals for the athletes. Stable tests and the use of a corona warning app could be compulsory.

But many details are still unclear. An interim report from the task force is expected in december. "It’s impossible to say at the moment what will come out of this in detail," says IOC chief bach. On the basis of the contingency plan, there are to be test competitions from march onwards. International spectators, however, could remain banned in tokyo even in the summer, as alfons hormann, president of the german olympic sports federation, also admitted.

The officials in tokyo reacted with relief to the latest news about successful vaccine tests. But time is running out for the planners. Even before that, bach had warned that a vaccine would not be a "panacea" for the olympics in tokyo.

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