Tokyo Olympics: In updated playbooks, COVID violations could see athletes sent home

Jonathan White, South China Morning Post

Posted at Jun 16 2021 08:01 AM | Updated as of Jun 16 2021 08:03 AM

Tokyo Olympics: In updated playbooks, COVID violations could see athletes sent home 1
People walk outside the security fence of Olympic Stadium built for Tokyo Olympic Games, that have been postponed to 2021 due to the pandemic, in Tokyo on June 11, 2021. Pawel Kopczynski, Reuters/file

The third and final version of the athlete and officials playbooks for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games have been released at a press conference in the Japanese capital on Tuesday evening, with organisers taking a hard line on any potential violations.

With these updated measures to limit the risk of Covid-19 in Tokyo, there was a warning to all those travelling that breaches of the rules could result in exclusions, disqualifications, financial sanctions. and even deportation from Japan.

Details on what specific actions will warrant which punishments remain thin on the ground but there is a risk that star athletes may miss out on medal chances if they fail to adhere to the playbooks.

"There is no number at this point," Christophe Dubi, the IOC's Olympic Games Executive Director, said when asked whether there was a limit on the financial sanctions. "It is a range of sanctions that we want to pass on to the participants," he said, suggesting that the role of the sanctions is to show how seriously breaches will be taken.

"This is the role of the disciplinary commission," he added on how punishments will be decided, refusing to speculate on what acts will lead to what sanctions.

Pierre Ducrey, IOC Olympic Games Operations Director, reiterated the message that the punishments are there as a deterrent.

"We have to be aware that there could be infractions," he said, adding that the message for those who do is that "There could be sanctions coming your way."

"The playbooks are there to be followed. No transgression," said Dubi. "These are the detailed policies. I am certain than an incredible majority will be respecting the rules."

Dubi pointed to the fact that many of those travelling to Tokyo have already been vaccinated. "A very high percentage are vaccinated - 80 per cent and a similar number in the media."

Brian McCloskey, Chair of the Independent Expert Panel, described Tokyo 2020 as "testing on an unprecedented scale" and that the playbooks will work. "We are confident they will significantly reduce the risk of Covid transmission at the Games."

Vaccines, McCloskey said, provide "an additional layer of protection and significant reassurance that these Games will go ahead in a safe and secure way."

Hidemasa Nakamura, the Tokyo 2020 Main Operation Chief, echoed that when he said that he hopes that the playbook increases confidence in Tokyo ahead of the Games.

These are the third versions of the playbooks, which list measures for various members of the Olympic family to observe on the ground in Tokyo to minimise the risk of the coronavirus pandemic.

Nakamura outlined the journey of the playbooks from the first iteration in February to the second in late April and these final versions.

"We hope this gives more clarity for athletes," he said, as he explained that the third playbook - created in just over a month - tightens the processes marked out in previous playbooks with "very specific measures".

These concentrate on the three pillars to combat Covid-19 - border controls, once Olympic visitors arrive in Japan and what happens if there is a breach. Testing on arrival, on top of two tests before leaving for Japan, will see athletes wait in the airport untl testing negative.

Visitors will be monitored by supervisors and GPS tracking, while athlete and volunteer screening will give results within 12 hours, Nakamura said.

That is one of a number of significant changes for the Tokyo Olympics compared to previous Games.

Ducrey highlighted the new role of Covid Liaison Officer, with at least one per delegation. "A very important role we have created is Covid Liaison Officer. Overall 3,000 CLOs. They really have a critical role to play."

When it comes to the sport itself, the latest playbook details the measures for every event and discipline.

"We're building on a huge amount of experience that now exists," the IOC's Olympic Games Sports Director Kit McConnell said. He pointed to more than 430 events and 50,000 athletes in the last year by the federations and the 13 test events in Tokyo in April and May.

Sport specific countermeasures and sport-by-sport processes are now documented, McConnell added, with nearly all athletes confirmed.

"The qualification deadline is June 29 - and 83 per cent are decided already. Only around 300 places left from direct qualification with the rest decided by rankings."

Craig Spence, Chief Brand and Communications Officer of the IPC, pointed to the Paralympic specific measures outlined in playbook version three.

"Additional countermeasures, including temporary waiving of physical distancing when needed and the temporary removal of masks for lip-reading where needed," are in place.

"Testing is the best form of defence," Spence added, pointing to the recent Para test events in Europe.

There is still much that remains to be seen, including media operations, as we await the final versions of the other playbooks in the coming days.

Organisers did confirm that there will be hard quarantine for six days for countries such as the UK, for both athletes and media, where there have been Covid-19 strains.

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