— Published 16 July 2021

With 7 days to go before the Games, the Japanese are still working on contact cases


D – 7. There’s only one week to go before the opening of the Olympic Games. This Friday, July 16, marks the official beginning of the Olympic truce. Thomas Bach chose to celebrate this day with an express trip to Hiroshima. The rest remains a blur.

On the sanitary front, everything is going wrong. The Japanese capital recorded 1,308 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, July 15th. This is the highest number recorded in almost six months, only surpassed by the 1,485 cases registered on January 21th. Tokyo was then placed under a state of emergency. The Japanese metropolis came out of it briefly, only to return to it until August 22nd.

Yuriko Koike, the governor of Tokyo, has pointed out that the greatest increase in serious cases and hospitalizations can currently be seen among people aged 50 and under, the vast majority of whom are still unvaccinated.

Despite this, Thomas Bach continues to believe that the skies over Tokyo will clear in the days or weeks ahead. According to a Japanese government official, speaking anonymously, the IOC President has asked the Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga, to consider the presence of spectators on official sites if the sanitary situation was to improve significantly.

Cautious, the Japanese Prime Minister did not close the door to the idea, but he reportedly suggested that such a decision could not be taken without bringing together all the parties involved, namely the national and local authorities, the IOC, the IPC and the organizing committee.

Only 26 of the 750 sessions at the Tokyo Olympics will be open to the public, but with a limited number of seats, about 3.5 percent of the total number initially available.

For the rest, the Japanese continue to advance blindly, adapting the rules of the Games as much as they can to the state of the sanitary situation. Kyodo News agency reveals that, a week before the opening, the athletes considered as contact cases will be able to take part in the competition, provided they have been tested negative six hours before the beginning of their event.

The information was reportedly released by a “well-informed” source. It is not yet official. According to this source, the Japanese government and the organizing committee are working on a sanitary process that includes PCR tests on all contact cases about six hours before the start of the competitions.

On a practical level, this protocol looks complex. For an athlete involved in an early morning series, the control should take place in the middle of the night. At 3 o’clock in the morning, for example, for an event that should start at 9 o’clock in the morning. The competitor will have to wait until the last moment before getting the green light to start the competition.

According to the same source, contact case athletes who would have passed this last chance PCR test six hours before entering the competition will most likely have to undergo another one after the competition, especially if they are engaged in a sport or discipline involving physical contact with an opponent or team member.

In the last version of the practical guide (“playbook”) for athletes, published last month, the organizers of the Games specify that an athlete who would be a contact case will have to isolate himself in a private room of the Olympic village. He will be asked to take his meals alone. It will be necessary for him to borrow a specific transport – individual vehicle – to go on the training or competition ground.