AUSTIN (KXAN) — This month marks a year since the 2020 Tokyo Olympics were postponed. As vaccinations begin in the host country, there’s limited time for organizers to finalize plans before the new July 23 start date.
One element still up in the air is whether fans will be able to attend. Kyodo News reports Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto is in favor of having them, and the organizing committee is set to meet around March 25 to make a decision. That time period coincides with the leg of the torch relay taking place in Japan.
“It would be better to come out with a big-picture plan on spectators as soon as possible. At least, I want to set the direction first,” Hashimoto said, according to Kyodo News.
Besides sweeping effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the Olympic organizing committee itself has gone through changes, including having Hashimoto replace previous president Yoshiro Mori. The Associated Press reports Mori resigned following comments he made indicating he believed women “talk too much.”
Japan begins vaccinations
Since the start of the pandemic, Japan has had more than 432,000 COVID-19 cases and 8,000 people have died because of the virus, according to the World Health Organization. About two weeks ago, Japan started administering vaccines, several months behind other countries.
Dr. Stephen Thomas, an infectious disease specialist in New York and a lead principal investigator in the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine trial, said it would be nice if the host nation had a high level of immunity because it’ll be in charge of logistics and maintenance of the Games. However, with more than 10,000 athletes expected, plus coaches and staff, other concerns arise.
“I’m less concerned about the level of immunity in the host nation and more concerned about, you know, the amount of variance in immunity you’re going to have from all of these athletes coming from all these different countries,” Dr. Thomas said. “So I personally think they still — if they’re going to have these Games they should still proceed with of you know a very conservative play in similar to how some of the professional sports leagues in the United States proceeded in terms of having these athletes and the people who train them and care for them in bubbles — in quarantine bubbles for, you know, 2 weeks before they arrive. They should compete. They should remain in their bubble while they’re there and when they’re done competing they should leave.”
Checking in with athletes
Ryan Burrow of WGN Radio checks in with athletes each week during his weekly “Quest for Gold” podcast. Through the years he’s built relationships with many athletes and has a good sense of how competitors are doing when it comes to preparing for the Games.
Many have dealt with uncertainty over competitions that have been moved. Others are also dealing with financing challenges.
“On some of these team sports, no problems — softball, volleyball, basketball. The money is there, the money is going to be there,” Burrow said. “But for more individual sports, it’s been a challenge.”
Some athletes have also dealt with training challenges, having to get creative with homemade gyms or even moving out of the country.
Still, Burrow says the consensus among athletes is that the Olympics will go on.
“There’s always that 1% feeling in the back of everyone’s brain, that ‘Am I training for something that’s actually going to happen?’ And that’s a big hurdle that these athletes have to face because the moment you start waking up and thinking, ‘Tokyo’s not going to happen. My qualifying events aren’t going to happen,’ well, then you’ve kind of put yourself into a really rough spot as far as confidence levels and training levels,” Burrow said. “So there have been athletes who are just kind of trying to go through the motions right now because they don’t know, as we don’t know, how this is all going to play out but for the most parts they’ve been very optimistic that this is moving forward.”
Planning for future Olympics
As the final plans are still coming together for the Tokyo Olympics, other host countries are already preparing for their Games.
Paris is set to host the 2024 Olympics, and is already preparing by giving the Eiffel Tower a new look. Travel & Leisure reports the landmark will be painted gold at a cost of about $60 million.
Meanwhile, Australia’s bid to host the 2032 Olympics appears to be on a fast track. Last week, the International Olympic Committee named Brisbane as its preferred candidate to host those Games. The IOC has put in place a new bidding process to try to efficiently find a host without turning other campaigns into “expensive losers,” the Associated Press reports. Doha, Qatar and Budapest, Hungary were expected to also compete for the 2032 spot, but neither has put in a bid yet.