Tokyo 2020 to be played alongside the ghost of COVID-19
A week before the games begin, Japan is facing a new wave of contagions that forced the government to declare a new state of emergency and increase restrictive measures.
The most atypical Olympic Games in recent times are about to begin. In less than a week, more than 15,000 athletes from all over the world will be in Tokyo to celebrate the Games that were postponed for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the biggest celebration of sport is in the spotlight, not only because of the sports, but also because of other issues that have to do not only with the pandemic, but also details as curious as the beds where the athletes will sleep.
In March 2020, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) made the decision to postpone the games that were scheduled for July of that year. Like all massive and international events, the Olympics were put on stand-by until it was known how the coronavirus pandemic was evolving in the world.
Only in September did it become known that the Games would be held in 2021 "with or without" coronavirus, said John Coates, IOC vice-president.
"It will be the Games that will have conquered the COVID, the light at the end of the tunnel," he added in an interview with AFP.
However, the light is not very clear. A week before the start of the Games, Japan is facing a new wave of contagions that forced the government to declare a new state of emergency and increase restrictive, albeit voluntary, measures throughout the country.
Amid the situation, on July 8, the organizing committee decided to play without spectators in the stands. It had already been known since the beginning of the year that there would be no foreign spectators and the capacity of the various stadiums could not exceed 50%.
Although the number of cases of COVID-19 on the island has remained stable since the beginning of the pandemic — just 830,000 cases and 15,000 deaths in a country of 126 million inhabitants — concern is growing with the outbreaks of COVID among locals and sports delegations.
This week, athletes such as Australian tennis player Alex de Minaur and Team USA basketball player Bradley Beal said goodbye to the Olympic dream as a result of testing positive for COVID-19.
But the cases have not been isolated among those yet to make it to Japan. Athletes, coaches and other delegation members from Uganda, Serbia, Lithuania, Russia and Israel have been infected in Japan, setting off alerts for entire delegations.
The 49 members of Brazil's judo team, for example, are in isolation after a case of COVID-19 broke out in the hotel where they are staying.
The 18,000 beds installed in the Olympic Village are made of cardboard and will be recycled to meet the goal that at least 80% of what's used in the games are environmentally friendly.
But being made of cardboard, they are perfect for sleeping and do not support a weight greater than that of a person, which eliminates the possibility of athletes having sexual relations during the days off.
— IOC MEDIA (@iocmedia) November 17, 2020
Although the pandemic forced organizers to hold the games without an audience, the athletes will not be alone.
The Japanese will be able to showcase the best of their technology by replacing human assistants with giant screens and androids that will emulate fans at various competitions.
Japan's 2021 Nippon Professional Baseball season kicked off on March 26th.
Did you catch SoftBank Robotics Corp.'s Pepper robots cheering on the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks baseball team at the PayPay Dome? We're cheering with them every game!
#SoftBankGroup #AI #sbhawks pic.twitter.com/81scVFTotU
— SoftBank Group Corp. (@SoftBank_Group) March 29, 2021