British Olympics chiefs were today adamant Team GB would still attend the Tokyo Olympics despite US advice not to travel to Japan and growing calls to cancel the event as a fourth Covid wave ravages the country.
The US State Department’s yesterday issued its highest Level 4 travel warning for Japan, which is in the grip of a month-long state of emergency with cases at 120 per 100,000 people and just 4.4% of the population vaccinated.
The UK Government said its advice not to travel to Japan remained unchanged despite the escalation in the US statement.
The British Olympics Association (BOA), which oversees Team GB today said it was fully behind the Games despite the US announcement and 80 percent of Japanese people calling for the July event to be called off or delayed.
‘We remain fully committed to sending our full team to the Tokyo Olympic Games, and everything we hear from our colleagues in Tokyo, the Japanese Government and the IOC tells us that the Games are going ahead,’ a BOA spokesman told MailOnline.
The spokesman pointed out that US athletes would still be competing, adding: ‘We also note our colleagues at the United States Olympic Committee spoke of their ongoing confidence for their participation at the Games this summer.’
The Foreign Office today repeated its position that Japan is off limits to Britons, but athletes and staff can go after Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden successfully lobbied Boris Johnson to allow all Team GB members to receive a dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
Dozens of Japanese local leaders have responded to a wave of anti-Olympics street protests by refusing to host athletes. At least 40 out of 500 towns registered to accommodate international competitors have now declined to do so in order to avoid putting extra pressure on hospitals, according to local reports.
Dozens of Japanese local leaders have responded to a wave of anti-Olympics street protests (including this one in Tokyo on May 23) by refusing to host athletes
Top Japanese and Olympic officials today pledged the Games will go ahead as planned on July 23 after being postponed in 2020, even as surveys revealed huge opposition among a public worried about new variants and the impact on the health sector.
A poll published last Monday by newspaper Asahi Shimbun daily found 43% of respondents wanted the Games cancelled, and 40% backed a further postponement.
This morning, Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa brushed aside the US travel ban and insisted the Games would still go ahead. ‘At present, we can see no particular impact,’ she told a news conference.
She noted that the advisory did not ban essential travel and the US Olympic & Paralympic Committee had said planned mitigation practices would allow for safe participation of Team USA athletes.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said Japan was in close contact with the US government and he had seen ‘no change’ in US support for the Games.
Japan is currently on the UK government’s amber list, meaning travel for leisure purposes is not permitted. Today a Foreign Office spokesman said the advice would be kept under ‘constant review’.
Although some athletes have previously called for the Games to be postponed, the UK sporting community today rallied round the event and insisted it would be safe.
Athletes and support staff will not be required to quarantine after arriving in Japan but will have to stay in bubbles and avoid mixing with locals.
International spectators will not be allowed to enter Japan to attend the Games but a decision has yet to be made on domestic spectators.
Mask-wearing protesters at this demonstration in Tokyo on Sunday held signs in English saying ‘cancellation is the best and only choice’
Michael Payne, former director of the IOC said these safety measures meant the Games would ‘definitely’ go ahead.
‘The IOC and the Japanese government and organising committee have put in place a very strict set of protocols to ensure the Games can take place in a safe and secure environment,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
‘The protocols will dramatically limit interaction between the international, visitors, media and the Japanese people. Effectively everyone attending the Games will only be allowed to travel from the village to the venue.
‘The country is in a state of emergency to bring Covid under control but if you look at the numbers the infection rate is a fraction of what you’re seeing in parts of Europe and America.’
Asked about arrangements for fans wanting to watch events in person, he said: ‘They have already banned all international spectators.
‘The news indicates that they will allow some domestic spectators – lots of other sporting events in Japan currently have them.’
With just 10 weeks to go until the Olympics begin, public and political opposition to the Games is growing with Tokyo under a state of emergency until the end of the month and dozens of towns refusing to host athletes.
At least 40 out of 500 Japanese towns registered to accommodate international competitors have now declined to do so in order to avoid putting extra pressure on hospitals, according to local reports
Team GB’s pre-Games preparation camp is split between Yokohama, Kawasaki and Keio University – all just to the south of Tokyo – and they have been assured they are still fine to use those facilities.
However, the US track and field team have pulled out of their plans to train at the eastern prefecture of Chiba, whose governor said he was not willing to give up vital hospital beds to athletes.
Okuizumo will no longer host India’s hockey team, Kurihara has abandoned plans to entertain South Africa’s hockey side and Australian’s swimming squad will no longer train in Niigata.
In its new guidance, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said travellers should avoid all travel to Japan due to the risk of new variants.
‘Because of the current situation in Japan even fully vaccinated travellers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants,’ it said.
Australia has also advised against travel to Japan due to health risks from COVID-19 and disruptions to global travel.
Japan has avoided the large-scale infections suffered by many other nations, but a fourth wave has triggered states of emergency in Tokyo, the western metropolis of Osaka and other localities across the nation.
Covid deaths in Japan have climbed to an all-time high amid a fourth wave that experts are blaming on the British variant of the virus, which is spreading faster than previous strains
A brutal fourth wave of Covid has hit Japan as doctors in the second-largest city of Osaka warn the healthcare system is in danger of being overwhelmed (Japan’s daily case toll, pictured)
The government was leaning towards extending the emergency status – set to end on May 31 in most regions, including Tokyo, several sources with knowledge of the decision told Reuters.
Japan’s slow vaccination roll-out has increased concerns.
The country has delivered vaccinations to just under 5% of its population, the slowest among the world’s larger, rich countries, and has recorded 715,940 infections and 12,308 deaths from the virus.
The US Olympic & Paralympic Committee, which oversees Team USA, said it was aware of the updated State Department advisory on Japan but had not changed its position.
‘We feel confident that the current mitigation practices in place for athletes and staff by both the USOPC and the Tokyo Organizing Committee, coupled with the testing before travel, on arrival in Japan, and during Games time, will allow for safe participation of Team USA athletes this summer,’ a statement said.
Ruling Liberal Democratic Party heavyweight Toshihiro Nikai also said he saw no direct impact on the Olympics from the US travel advisory but added that there were important practical issues that remained to be resolved.
Tokyo Olympics Q&A: Will it go ahead? Which new sports will feature? And what are the Covid rules for the athletes? Here’s EVERYTHING you need to know as the countdown to the Games continues
By Matt Davies and James Gant for MailOnline
After being pushed back a year following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the biggest sporting event on the planet is almost finally upon us.
There remain a number of hurdles for the International Olympic Committee and Tokyo organisers to overcome, but Japan will be hoping to provide some of the magic we’ve seen in recent years in Rio and London 2012.
Japan entered a state of emergency on April 25, running through until May 11 with Covid-19 cases rising. And with under three months until the Olympics are set to start, they have since extended the period until the end of the month.
Amidst a mountain of uncertainty, one thing we can be sure of is that no oversees fans will be able to travel to the Games. Nevertheless, providing it does go ahead, you can be sure Japan will look to put their own unique spin on the Olympics.
With the Games now just around the corner, Sportsmail takes a look at what should be expected from Japan’s first Olympics in over 50 years.
The Olympics are scheduled to officially commence after the opening ceremony on July 23
Will the Olympics definitely go ahead?
This is perhaps the one and only place to begin. As highlighted above, Japan are currently in a state of emergency with under three months until the Olympics are scheduled to begin.
Moreover, the general feeling among the Japanese public is largely negative. Just over 100 days prior to the Games getting underway, Japanese outlet Kyodo News published a poll stating 70 per cent of the public want the Olympics postponed or cancelled.
The survey indicated that 39.2 per cent wanted the Games entirely cancelled, with 32.8 per cent opting for delay. Meanwhile, just 24.5 per cent believed the Games should go ahead as currently planned.
And more recently on Tuesday, an IOC press conference was gatecrashed by a protester disguised as a reporter, unfurling a banner and shouting: ‘No Olympics anywhere, f**k the Olympics. We don’t want the Olympics anywhere. No Olympics in LA, No Olympics in Tokyo.’
Key figures and decision makers remain adamant the Games are going ahead as planned, however.
In response to the incident, IOC spokesperson Mark Adams said: ‘We listen but won’t be guided by public opinion,’ adding ‘everything is telling us that the Games can go ahead and will go ahead.’
A sign reading ‘It is impossible to hold the Olympics, face up to reality’ was held up during a a testing event for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics marathon race earlier in May
The IOC also confirmed there have been four recent test events without any covid transmission.
After attending a half marathon test event on May 5, Sebastian Coe said the nervousness among the Japanese locals is being taken ‘very seriously’, insisting the Covid protocols have been ‘tried and tested’.
Furthermore, Team GB chief Mark England late in April said he was growing more confident by the day that the Olympics would indeed go ahead.
England said: ‘The state of emergency that has been announced is really important because it adds weight to the Japanese government making every stride to not only safeguard the local population in Japan but, in our context, to safeguard the Games going ahead.
‘I’ve got more confidence by the day that the Games will be happening and we look forward to supporting whatever restrictions are put in place.’
Can fans attend?
The answer to this question isn’t entirely clear as of yet. What we know for sure is that no international fans will be able to attend either the Olympic or Paralympic Games.
The decision was confirmed back in March, when the Tokyo organising committee revealed what had been a ‘tough’ decision to make.
‘In order to give clarity to ticket holders living overseas and to enable them to adjust their travel plans at this stage, the parties on the Japanese side have come to the conclusion that they will not be able to enter into Japan at the time of the Olympic and Paralympic Games,’ they said in a statement.
It’s reportedly estimated that a lack of oversees fans will cost Japan around £500m.
Meanwhile, a decision on the attendance of local fans will be made in June, just weeks before the Games are due to begin.
Importantly, Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto has confirmed they are prepared for the Olympics to take place without fans if necessary.
Assuming the Olympics do go ahead, the dates have slightly changed having been pushed back by a year.
The Olympics – which is still named ‘Tokyo 2020’ – technically starts on Wednesday, July 21, as the softball and football opening rounds get underway.
However, the opening ceremony, which officially marks the start of the Games, is scheduled for Friday, July 23, before a jam-packed two-week schedule commences.
The Games come to an end on Sunday, August 8, which is when the closing ceremony takes place.
Meanwhile, the Paralympics Games will run from August 24 to September 5.
Will the athletes be vaccinated?
The chances of Olympic athletes being fully vaccinated against coronavirus have been boosted after Pfizer offered to donate free jabs to both those competing and working at the event.
Pfizer have reached an agreement with the International Olympic Committee, despite previous assurances from the British Olympic Association that their athletes would not ‘jump the queue’.
The IOC have made it clear that any athletes provided with a vaccine will not get one in place of a member of the general public, but rather in addition to.
And while vaccination is not a mandatory requirement, the IOC are expecting a large proportion of those competing and working at the Games to have received a jab beforehand.
What will the rules be for athletes?
The IOC and Tokyo 2020 organisers have issued a ‘playbook’ which outlines the rules
Even if they are provided a vaccine prior to the Games, it will still be an experience like no other for the 10,000 athletes, coaches and staff expected to arrive in July.
There is an extensive set of rules that they will all have to adhere to.
Primarily, each athlete will be required to record two negative tests before arriving in Japan. They will then be tested each day that they are in the country, and they will exclusively eat at the Games venues and accommodation, or via delivery to their rooms.
Furthermore, they cannot take public transport during their stay and they can only travel via official Olympics vehicles to move between hotels and sporting venues.
Those travelling with the athletes will also need to record two negative tests before entering the country. They will be tested for the first three days of their arrival and subsequently ‘regularly’, depending on how much contact they plan to make with the athlete.
Finally, masks will be worn during medal ceremonies and at most times within venues, while interviews in the mixed zone will be limited to just 90 seconds.
Moving away from the hurdles still to overcome, we now have a look at what the Games may actually look like assuming they go ahead.
The opening and closing ceremonies are still scheduled for Friday, July 23 at 8pm and August 8 at the same time.
Initially, there was expected to be 11,000 athletes in attendance across 200 nations, but that is now reportedly to be reduced to just 6,000.
But what will it look like? Well, shortly before the Games were postponed last year, Tokyo put on a powerful pyrotechnic display, which could indicate the type of ceremony we’ll see.
The extravagant show took place high above a barge stationed in Tokyo Bay that supports a massive replica of the five Olympic rings.
The iconic New National Stadium
Tokyo’s iconic New National Stadium boasts a staggering maximum capacity of 68,000 (80,016 with temporary seats) and towers above the low-lying surrounding flats in the Shinjuku ward of the city.
It is set to host track and field events as well as some of the football matches – and, of course, the opening and closing ceremonies. Despite architect Kengo Kuma likely to win many awards for his design, the stadium has been a headache for organisers.
The new design, by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, has been inspired by traditional temples
The intention was to remodel the National Stadium in Tokyo, which had been the site of the 1964 Olympics, the last time the city hosted the Games. In February 2012 a £700million renovation was announced, with the design up for bidding. But the winning proposal faced enormous criticism as it was compared to a bicycle helmet.
As costs spiraled to nearly £1.8billion the Zaha Hadid design was scrapped entirely. The new design by Kuma has been inspired by traditional temples and has a more conventional look.
Although Tokyo is densely urban, it is also dotted with many parks and green areas. The stadium works off that theme, making sure it is functional and linked to nature.
A walkway on the fifth level is called the ‘Grove of the Sky.’ It’s about 100ft above the street and runs half a mile around the stadium. It is lined with benches, flowers and trees and walking around it there are breathtaking views of the city, as well as Mount Fuji to the west on a clear day.
The stadium seating rises in a steep gradient from the field level and the nine-lane track, getting steeper the higher it goes. The colours of the seats also get lighter the higher up you go with more brown seats near the bottom — the earth — and more green, grey and white near the top.
The stadium will host the opening and closing ceremonies, football and track and field events
Tokyo’s 1964 Olympics left behind several architectural jewels, the most famous of which was Kenzo Tange’s Yoyogi National Stadium. It was the swimming venue in 1964 — American swimmer Don Schollander won four gold medals there — and will this time host handball, as well as badminton and wheelchair rugby at the Paralympics.
The new stadium also feature items from the old national stadium, which was razed in 2015. The most prominent are two mosaic-tile murals featuring the Greek goddess Nike and Nomino Sukune, a legendary sumo wrestler. They are located at the Aoyama Gate entrance.
OLYMPIC VENUES: HERITAGE ZONE AND TOKYO BAY ZONE
1. Olympic Stadium – Opening and closing ceremonies, athletics, football
2. Tokoyo Metropolitan Gymnasium – Table tennis
3. Yoyogi National Stadium – Handball
4. Nippon Budokan – Judo, Karate
5. Tokyo International Forum – Weightlifting
6. Kokugikan Arena – Boxing
7. Equestrian Park – Dressage, Eventing, Jumping
8. Musashino Forest Sport Plaza – Badminton, Modern Pentathlon (Fencing)
9. Tokyo Stadium – Football, Rugby, Modern Pentathlon (Swimming, Fencing, Riding, Laser-Run)
10. Musashinonomori Park – Cycling (Road Race)
11. Ariake Arena – Volleyball
12. Ariake Gymnastics Centre – Gymnastics
13. Ariake Urban Sports Park – Cycling (BMX Freestyle, BMX racing), Skateboarding
14. Ariake Tennis Park – Tennis
15. Odaiba Marine Park – Aquatics (Marathon Swiming), Triathlon
16. Shiokaze Park – Beach Volleyball
17. Aomi Urban Sports Park – Basketball, Sport Climbing
18. Oi Hockey Stadium – Hockey
19. Sea Forest Cross-Country Course – Equestrian (Eventing)
20. Sea Forest Waterway – Canoe (Sprint), Rowing
21. Kasai Canoe Slalom Centre – Caneo (Slalom)
22. Yumenoshima Park Archery Field – Archery
23. Tokyo Aquatics Centre – Swimming, Diving, Artistic Swimming
24. Tatsumi Water Polo Centre – Water Polo
25. Sapporo Odori Park – Athletics (Marathon/ Race Walk)
26. Makuhari Messe Hall A – Taekwondo, Wrestling
27. Makuhari Messe Hall B – Fencing
28. Tsurigaski Surfing Beach – Surfing
29. Saitama Super Arena – Basketball
30. Asaka Shooting Range – Shooting
31. Kasumigaseki Country Club – Golf
32. Enoshima Yacht Harbour – Sailing
33. Izu Velodrome – Track Cycling
34. Izu MTB Course – Mountain Biking
35. Fuji International Speedway – Cycling (Road Race)
36. Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium – Baseball
37. Yokohama Baseball Stadium – Baseball
38. Sapporo Dome – Football
39. Miyagi Stadium – Football
40. Ibaraki Kashima Stadium – Football
41. Saitama Stadium – Football
42. International Stadium Yokohama – Football
Medals made from electronic devices
Medals for the 2020 Olympics will be made from recycled electronic devices as the Games looks to be more environmentally friendly.
The Old Metals New Medals project launched a nationwide collection of discarded electronic devices in April 2017 to draw attention to the importance of sustainability.
Millions of smartphones and tonnes of old digital products were donated, altogether amounting to nearly 50,000 tons of devices. Devices included laptops, cameras and more than five million smartphones over 18 months since the project started.
This is the gold medal that will be worn by winners at next year’s Tokyo 2020 Olympics
A total of 16.5kg of gold has been collected, representing 54 per cent of the target, and 1,800kg of silver, 43.9 per cent of the target.
The committee said that the project has offered the public an opportunity to play an important role in the Games’ preparations.
The new designs have been made from harvested gadgets handed in by the public
The Japanese public donated their old devices at shops and municipal authorities across the country before they were dismantled refined and turned into raw metals.
Some 2,700kg of bronze had already been extracted by June 2018 and by October there had been 28.4kg of gold and 3,500kg of silver extracted from the donations.
The project is being supported by mobile phone operator NTT DOCOMO, the Japanese Government environmental Sanitation Center and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.
What are the 2020 Olympic events?
There will be a total of 33 sports at the 2020 Olympics. These are: Aquatics, Archery, Athletics, Badminton, Baseball/Softball, Basketball, Boxing, Canoe, Cycling, Equestrian, Fencing, Football, Golf, Gymnastics, Handball, Hockey, Judo, Karate, Modern Pentathlon, Rowing, Rugby, Sailing, Shooting, Skateboarding, Sport Climbing, Surfing, Table Tennis, Taekwondo, Tennis, Triathlon, Volleyball, Weightlifting, Wrestling.
What are the new sports at Tokyo?
The 2020 Summer Olympics will feature five new sports: Skateboarding, Karate, Baseball/Softball, Surfing and Sports Climbing.
The sports were approved with a unanimous vote of 90 IOC members. The additions will bring 470 more athletes to the Games, as well as 18 new events.
IOC president Thomas Bach said the motivation behind the new sports’ introduction was to ‘take sport to the youth’.
‘With the many options that young people have, we cannot expect any more that they will come automatically to us – we have to go to them.’
Skateboarding at the 2020 Olympics
The addition of Skateboarding to the 2020 Olympics has perhaps attracted the most attention, especially after three-time Olympic gold medal-winning snowboarder, Shaun White said he was considering switching sports to skateboarding.
‘I think I will carry on. My big choice now is whether to go for the Summer Games or not. I’m excited about it. The motivation will be there. It’s something new, less gear, new competitors, I could be at home and compete,’ he said.
The Skateboarding sport will feature two disciplines at the 2020 Olympics: park and street.
The former will include: ‘A course that combines a dome-shaped bowl and a variety of complex curves will be used. For the street competition, a course with stairs, curbs, slopes and rails will be used.’
2020 Olympics mascots
Miraitowa and Someity have been unveiled as the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games mascots
The mascots for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games were voted for by children in Japanese schools – both at home and abroad – from a choice of three finalists pairs.
The winning pair of two fox-like figures was announced in February 2018, and later named Miraitowa and Someity.
Miraitowa, which is the mascot for the Olympic Games, is a combination of the Japanese words for ‘future’ and ‘eternity’, and is presented with indigo blue ichimatsu patterns, the same as the Tokyo 2020 Games emblem.
Meanwhile Someity, the mascot for the Paralympic Games, is phonetically similar to the English ‘so mighty’, and is derived from a variety of cherry blossom named Someiyoshino.