When the Olympics were postponed last year, there was a collective optimism around the world that by the time summer 2021 arrived, the COVID-19 pandemic would be well behind us. That, of course, is not the case, and the recent global surge in coronavirus cases has cast doubt on whether the Olympics will be able to go ahead after all. Even so, organizers for the games have insisted that the Olympics will take place this summer, and they have released a series of playbooks to outline how they will make this happen. The most recent addition to this series, which was released on Tuesday, makes it clear that while the games are scheduled to proceed, they will be nothing like what we’re used to.
The 33-page document outlines a number of rules that athletes must adhere to if they don’t want to risk being kicked out of their events. These rules include no socializing, no handshakes and no hugs, and the athletes’ time in Japan will be “minimized to reduce the risk of infection.” Athletes staying in the Olympic Village are expected to limit any unnecessary forms of contact with others.
Athletes will not have to be vaccinated, nor will they have to quarantine upon arrival in Japan, but the guidelines specify that they will be tested for the virus at least once every four days, and a negative test will be required within 72 hours of traveling to Japan, along with another negative test upon arrival. If an athlete tests positive, they will be barred from competing. Athletes will be allowed to attend training camps in Japan ahead of the games, but their whereabouts will be logged at all times and they must get permission to use public transportation. They will not be allowed to visit gyms, tourist areas, shops, restaurants or bars, and can only go to “official Games venues and limited additional locations.” Athletes will also be advised to wear masks at all times unless they are competing, training, eating, sleeping or outside in an open space.
Finally, the guidebook included this stark message: “If you have been to the Games before, we know this experience will be different in a number of ways. For all Games participants, there will be some conditions and constraints that will require your flexibility and understanding.”