Thrills without frills

Sports | ASSOCIATED PRESS 20 Nov 2020

Athletes at the Tokyo Olympics will not have the luxury of hanging around once they have finished events.

No late-night parties in the village, no nights - or early mornings - on the town.

Instead of getting to know people athletes will be encouraged to leave Japan a day or two after competing.

From the opening ceremony to life in the village on Tokyo Bay, the postponed 2020 Olympics will be like no other. There will be stringent rules and maybe vaccines and rapid testing to pull off the games.

"Staying longer increases the potential for problems," John Coates, the International Olympic Committee official in charge of Tokyo preparations for the Olympics and Paralympics.

Coates' block lines on sightseeing or partying show these will be Olympics with few frills.He accompanied IOC president Thomas Bach to Tokyo this week to meet Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and shore up support with sponsors.

Then Bach left Tokyo with a line that a vaccine for Covid-19 was likely to be available and athletes should take it.

Besides a likely vaccine and rapid tests various other pandemic countermeasures will be in place, including social distancing, "bubble" isolation arrangements and masks.

But finalized plans for fans are still in the works.

Japan has controlled the virus reasonably well with about 1,900 deaths. But almost 500 new cases were reported on Wednesday in Tokyo and more than 2,000 around Japan - one-day records.

Christophe Dubi, executive director of the Games, acknowledged much is still in the planning stages with many scenarios in play ahead of an opening on July 23.

"We don't know what the situation will be next year, but some decisions will have to be made by December," he said.

Coates also said the opening ceremony will be restricted to athletes and six team officials. In the past, dozens of officials - up to 50 - have been allowed to march.

"We won't do that this time," he said. "That is just increasing the potential problems."

Even so, Coates said, all 206 Olympic member countries will be represented at the opening, and then a full contingent of 11,000 athletes will compete.

Officials are also wrestling with how to keep the opening ceremony from becoming a mass-spreading virus event, even if athletes are tested when they leave their home countries and when they enter Japan.

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