Photo source: Indiana Express (Illustration by Sujavit Dey)
The Tokyo Olympics were postponed last March amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The games are now scheduled to take place from July 23 through August 8, 2021. With the pandemic still very much with us, many have speculated whether the games will actually take place at all. These speculations have been fueled by the lack of information being provided regarding the logistics of hosting a global event during a once-in-a-lifetime public health crisis. As we are now less than 150 days away from the opening ceremonies, the picture is beginning to take shape–kind of.
Earlier this month, the International Olympic Committee (“IOC”), the International Paralympic Committee (“IPC”), and the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee released a series of heavily illustrated “Playbooks” aimed at providing key stakeholders a “guide to safe and successful Games.” The Playbooks include much of what you would expect and what we are all to used to hearing a year into the pandemic–maintain social distance, wash your hands, wear a mask–but many questions remain unanswered. Apparently expecting some criticism, the IOC reiterated that more details would be added as the global situation relating to the pandemic becomes clearer closer to the start of the games.
What We Do Know
All members of the International Federations, press, broadcasters, and athletes and their coaches will be required to test negative within 72 hours of their departure for Japan, and again once they arrive. With another negative result on the second test attendees will be able to avoid the mandatory 14 day quarantine currently in place for all travelers entering Japan from abroad. Regular testing will be done throughout the games, with athletes being test at least every four days. Vaccines will not be required for athletes or other key stakeholders.
Travel within Japan will be restricted. The use of public transportation will not be permitted and no visiting tourist areas, shops, restaurants, bars, or gyms will be allowed by any of the key stakeholder groups. A face mask must be worn at all times except when training, competing, eating, or sleeping, or if you are outside and able to keep two meters apart from others. Additionally, no shouting, cheering, or singing will be permitted. Those observing the games are encouraged to clap to show their support.
Non-compliance with the Playbook may expose athletes to consequences that may have an impact on their participation in the Games. Repeated failures to comply may result in the withdrawal of accreditation and the right to participate in future Games. With Tokyo still under a state of emergency, all participants will be required to follow safety measures put in place by Japanese authorities in addition to the those in the Playbooks. A breach of these measure could result in a mandatory 14 day quarantine or revocation of the participants permit to stay in Japan.
Finally, more information has been provided about what the Russian athletes will be wearing following the Court of Arbitration for Sport (“CAS”) ruling which imposed two years of sanctions on Russian sports for tampering with a testing database in a state-controlled Moscow laboratory. As a part of these sanctions, Russia’s team is banned from using its team name, flag, and national anthem at the Toyko games and 2022 Winter Games in Bejing. In a document released earlier this month, the IOC and the World Anti-Doping Agency (“WADA”) announced the principles relating to the implementation of the CAS award in WADA v. RUSADA. It states, for both the Tokyo and Bejing games, Russian athletes are to be entered by and represent the “Russian Olympic Committee” and must use the acronym “ROC” on all public displays of the organization. The Russian Olympic Committee emblem will be used on the flag, with a white background and no wording.
What We Don’t Know
The big question that remains unanswered is whether spectators will be allowed to attend the Games in any fashion. With over 10,000 athletes, thousands of coaches, staff members, and journalists from all over the globe expected to descend on Tokyo this summer, adding fans, even in a limited capacity, makes an already difficult task seemingly insurmountable. Only time will tell if spectators will be in attendance but there are a number of scenarios imaginable. For example, only allowing local fans, or only those who have been vaccinated. One thing is for sure, it will not look like years past.