TOKYO (AP) – Each day seems to bring another change to the Tokyo Olympics as surging coronavirus cases in Japan threaten planning for the games, which will open in just over three months.
On Wednesday, a leg of the torch relay was moved off the public streets in Matsuyama City in the Japanese prefecture of Ehime. It was to take place in a city park with “no spectators or stage performances,” an organizing committee statement said. This followed the torch being detoured last week in Osaka – Japan‘s second-largest metropolitan area – and run only in a city park. Some legs of the relay will also be taken off the public streets on May 1-2 on Japan‘s southern island of Okinawa.
The torch relay will feature a total of 10,000 runners crisscrossing Japan until it arrives on July 23 at the opening ceremony in Tokyo. The relay began on March 25 in northeastern Japan and, though it has run with few incidents, organizers have cautioned that it may need to be rerouted as conditions change. Osaka and Tokyo were expected to come under new emergency orders this week. Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said Tuesday that measures needed to be taken “as soon as possible” to stem the spread. Japan has attributed more than 9,600 deaths to COVID-19, good by global standards but poor in Asia. “If the coronavirus infection keeps getting worse, it’s no time to be holding the Olympics,” Kotaro Nagasaki, the governor of Yamanashi prefecture, said this week. Yamanashi is located just southwest of Tokyo and the home of the famous Mt. Fuji.
Some test events are also being postponed or rescheduled. Many going forward are being held without athletes – so-called operational events – or with only Japanese athletes. A qualifying event from artistic swimming in Tokyo that was first scheduled for earlier in the year, and then pushed back to early May, will now be held outside of Japan in June, FINA, the governing body of swimming, said in a statement. It had to be moved partially because a FINA diving event will take place in Tokyo on May 1-6 at the new Olympic swimming venue.
Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa last week said that all athletes might need to be tested daily. On Tuesday, Japan‘s Kyodo news agency reported that daily saliva tests for Olympic and Paralympic athletes are being planned, quoting “officials with knowledge of the planning.”
This change is likely to appear in the second edition of the so-called “Playbook,” which will be published by the end of the month. These guides are put out by the IOC and so far have set out vague rules for 15,400 Olympic and Paralympic athletes and tens of thousands of others to follow when they enter Japan. Fans from abroad have been banned. Still unclear is if any local fans will be allowed to attend and, if so, what will be capacity at venues.
A final edition of the Playbook is to be published in June.
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