Athletes could be required to undergo more COVID-19 testing at Tokyo 2020
okyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto has suggested the number of times athletes are tested for coronavirus could be increased amid growing fears over the spread of more transmissible variants.
Plans are in place for competitors to be tested once every four days during their time at this year’s rescheduled Olympic Games.
But Hashimoto is now considering increasing the testing frequency after the emergence of variants first identified in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil which are continuing to spread worldwide.
Speaking to Japanese media, Hashimoto revealed that International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach had called on organisers to implement a stricter testing protocol to combat the virus.
"From the athletes' perspective, I think it's better that testing rules are strict to begin with rather than having a change in protocols announced midway through [the Games]," said Hashimoto in a report by Kyodo News.
"We do need to think about [increasing testing frequency)."
Hashimoto spoke to Bach during a recent meeting involving the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, the IOC, the International Paralympic Committee, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the Japanese Government.
Around 11,000 athletes are expected to compete at the Olympics in Tokyo.
But the number permitted to march in the Opening Ceremony is set to be restricted with Hashimoto suggesting it will be around a third of the amount that took part in the event at Rio 2016 which exceeded 12,000.
"Hopefully we can send the world a movie that provides a ray of light as we agonise and suffer from the coronavirus," Hashimoto about the staging of the Opening Ceremony.
"Given the situation, it might not be an Opening or Closing Ceremony where many people gather."
Hashimoto also indicated that changes could be made to the scheduling of events should an outbreak of coronavirus occur at the Games.
"We need to simulate for any potential scenarios," said Hashimoto.
"It's hard to think there won't be anything happening.
"Having no spectators is not totally ruled out."
The Games were originally scheduled to take place last year before being postponed to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics are due to open on July 23 and conclude on August 8.
Tokyo is to remain under tough COVID-19 restrictions until March 21 after being among several areas in Japan to be placed in a state of emergency since January as the country battles to reduce the infection rate.
Hashimoto, appointed as the new President of the Organising Committee following the resignation of Yoshirō Mori last month, believes the Games can demonstrate Japan’s ability to overcome hurdles.
"We will have on display the Japanese capability in solving problems," added Hashimoto.
"The Tokyo Games will be significant in whether we can be a leading nation in finding a solution to a challenge.
"If we can't do anything until there's zero coronavirus, that means we can't solve a challenge. We need to show we can ensure safety and go forward if we put all possible measures in place.
"If we can overcome many problems and fulfil the Games, that will lead to its legacy."