The U.S. has been reopening large facilities, such as stadiums and arenas, with the help of new cleaning certifications and disinfecting methods to help keep summer spectators safe from COVID-19 this summer. However, safety authorities have concerns regarding the biggest sporting event of the summer— the Olympics— which are set to open on July 23 in Tokyo, the Associated Press (AP) reports.
More than 15,000 Olympic and Paralympic athletes from over 200 nations and territories are expected to be in Tokyo for the event, according to the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Also in attendance will be 59,000 other people like coaches, judges, officials, broadcasters, media, and members of the athletes’ families. Overall, the total amount of people scheduled to enter Tokyo will be 93,490, which organizers say is 50% less than the original forecast of 180,000 since spectators from overseas were barred from attending games.
The IOC has said that vaccination is not required for participating in the Olympics, but the committee encourages all athletes to be fully vaccinated. More than 80% of athletes and staff staying in the Olympic Village on Tokyo Bay will be vaccinated and are expected to remain in a social “bubble” to minimize contagion risk until they compete and then leave Japan within two days of their finish.
Facility and sports authorities will follow guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO) during the Tokyo Games. Roads have already been closed around the venues and the city of Tokyo and other parts of Japan will remain under a state of emergency until June 20, according to AP. Toshiro Muto, the CEO of the organizing committee, said that media entering Japan could be monitored by GPS through their phones to ensure they are following safety rules. “We can use the GPS and if they’re going to places outside the business destinations, that will become very apparent,” Moto said. “After 14 days they can engage in the normal media activity and coverage.”
Japanese medical officials and 50-80% of the public oppose holding the Olympics in July due to concerns that it will become a “super spreader” event and have called for canceling the games. As concerns grow, 10,000 out of 80,000 unpaid volunteers have dropped out of the games and 3,500 out of 40,000 city volunteers have also pulled out, Reuters reports.
However, Seiro Hashimoto, Olympics organizing committee president, said the event will be safe for athletes, and government guidance will be followed for any local fans at venues. “Taking infection control measures for athletes and Games officials so athletes from the world can safely participate and to protect our people’s lives and health, I think that is the premise of holding (the Olympics),” Prime Minister Yoshibide Suga told lawmakers in parliament earlier this month.