It’s no wonder, then, that the Tokyo 2020 Olympics were forced to break with a number of traditions as the global pandemic forces organizers to stage an unlikely mega sporting event like any other.
Spectators will also be absent from 97% of Olympic competitions, with “virtual cheers” and a screen at events for fans to send selfies and messages of support to athletes instead.
While opinion polls have consistently highlighted the Games’ unpopularity with the Japanese public, organizers hope the focus will quickly shift away from the global pandemic once serious competition begins after the opening ceremony of Friday.
Nonetheless, questions remain about how Tokyo can host a large-scale sporting event and protect volunteers, athletes, officials – and the Japanese public – from Covid-19.
This hectic environment made it difficult for Tokyo not to be the first “non-fun” Olympics.
Inside the village
The Athletes’ Village at the Olympic Games is widely regarded as a place where thousands of the world’s best athletes from over 200 countries come together and get to know each other better, as well as share stories and experiences.
However, during these Games, the organizers ask the athletes to dine alone and maintain a social distance with others. In a TikTok video on Wednesday, Australian water polo star Tilly Kearns detailed the team’s rigorous health protocols in the village canteen – athletes only have 10 minutes to eat their food.
Kunihiko Okamoto, vice president of Okamoto Industries, who has been asked by the organizers of the games to provide some of the condoms, said the number of prophylactics has been reduced due to the pandemic.
“Before the pandemic, we thought the Olympics was a great opportunity to showcase our products – it’s important to raise more awareness about STDs. But during the pandemic, and given the situation, we think there are things more important in the world than talking about the importance of condoms, ”Okamoto said.
As the athletes settle into their new accommodation in the Olympic Village, many are testing what is on offer.
Paul Chelimo, a Team USA runner, said on his Twitter account that “the beds that will be installed in the Olympic Village in Tokyo will be made of cardboard, this is to avoid privacy between the athletes.”
“The beds will be able to support the weight of a single person to avoid situations beyond sport,” he added.
However, the idea that beds with cardboard frames were for “antisexual” purposes and collapsed under the weight of more than one person was quickly denied by one Olympian.
Irish gymnast Rhys McClenaghan posted a video on Twitter of himself jumping several times as he tested the strength of his bed, before declaring: “That’s wrong! Fake news!”
Tokyo 2020 says the beds will be “made into recycled paper after the Games”.
“We encourage the use of recycled materials for purchased items and building materials at the Tokyo 2020 Games,” said the official Games “Pre-Games Sustainability Report”.
Compete with the Covid
Despite Covid-19 protocols, coronavirus cases in Tokyo – currently in a state of emergency until August 22 – show no signs of slowing down.
Tokyo reported 1,832 new cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday, its biggest daily increase since January 16, according to the Tokyo metropolitan government.
“Without the proper measures in place, it will only take one person to introduce the virus and spread it, especially in places like the Athletes’ Village,” infectious disease expert Nobuhiko Okabe said on Friday during a briefing. press conference.
“We have to do what we can to prevent an epidemic from happening, and we really need the cooperation of all athletes and delegations to make this work,” he added.
Olympic organizers haven’t included any details about gender in the playbook outlining Covid-19 countermeasures, although social distancing protocols make it more difficult.
But Maki Hirayama, a sociologist and sexuality expert at Meiji University, argued that athletes preparing for the Games would likely always be looking for ways to let off steam – even amid the pandemic.
“(Humans) need a release, and all the top Olympic athletes had to focus on their training … and we can’t just live with focus; we need a release. . Sexual activity can provide (people) the greatest liberation, ”she said.
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