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Explained: Tokyo Olympics mandates and why COVID-hit nations are fuming

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Tokyo 2020 organisers said that additional measures will be used to reduce infection risks from several countries, including India, that have seen "significant impact from variants" of COVID-19.

Explained: Tokyo Olympics mandates and why COVID-hit nations are fuming

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has protested the "unfair" rules imposed by the Japanese government on participants from several COVID-hit nations.

The Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, originally scheduled in July-August 2020, were delayed due to the global pandemic.

Around 11,000 athletes and more than 50,000 others are expected to gather for the mega event even though foreign spectators have been banned.

Japanese citizens and experts have expressed concern that inadequate measures could lead to a COVID-19 superinfection spreader scenario.

The organisers announced additional measures on June 21 to reduce infection risks from COVID-19 variants in several countries, including India.

Protocols for athletes

All participants were required to take two COVID-19 tests before flying to Japan, according to the updated “Playbook” of anti-virus measures released on April 28.

Vaccination of athletes is non-obligatory as accessibility and priority differ from country to country, and doesn’t offer 100 percent protection, as per officials.

The first version of the "Playbook", released in February 2021, had indicated that participants would be tested at least every four days.

Athletes have to practically live in a bubble within the athletes’ village. They have been barred from joining events as spectators; and asked to avoid using public transport.

Athletes have to wear masks and minimize physical interaction. The protocol for athletes included test, trace and isolate. Athletes have been asked to maintain hygiene at all times.

Socializing and group meals are prohibited. And athletes must depart Japan within 48 hours of their last event.

Why revised protocols have upset India

Tokyo Olympics 2020 organisers said on Monday that additional measures will be used to reduce infection risks from several countries, including India, that have seen "significant impact from variants" of COVID-19.

The protocols will involve daily testing of athletes for a week before they depart for Japan and for them to "refrain from coming into contact with other teams for three days after they arrive" in Japan.

Officials pointed out that this implies that athletes from these 11 countries could lose three days of practice and there is no clarity on how they will have meals or train.

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) said the rules would cause athletes to lose three crucial training days.

"Athletes are allowed to arrive in the Games village only five days before their event. Now three days will be wasted, this is the time the athletes need to be moving towards their mode to peak... highly unfair for Indian athletes, who have worked hard for five years, to be discriminated against just five days before the Olympics," IOA president Narinder Batra and secretary Rajeev Mehta said in a joint statement.

The Tokyo 2020 organisers confirmed to AFP that they had received a letter from India.

"For participants from areas such as India that have seen significant impact from variants, it is necessary that they follow more stringent rules than those outlined in the (athletes) Playbook, and are similar to the existing border control measures," the organisers said, according to AFP.

But the organisers did not clarify whether athletes from the affected countries would be allowed to train in the three days after their arrival.

Spectators

The spectator limit for the Tokyo Games has been set at 50 percent of venue capacity and up to a maximum of 10,000 people.

Residents of Japan will be allowed to attend the Tokyo Olympic Games but overseas spectators are not allowed entry.

The guidelines stipulate that masks should be worn in venues at all times; speaking in a loud voice or shouting will be prohibited; congestion should be avoided by means of appropriate announcements; and visitors should leave venues in a staggered manner.

Spectators will be requested to travel directly to venues and return home directly, and to take all necessary precautions when moving between prefectures.

Students in the schools’ spectator programme and their supervisors will not be considered in these limits and will be treated separately, as they are not spectators.

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