No sex. No cheering. Eat alone. If competitors and support staff at this summer’s Covid-affected Tokyo Olympics don’t abide by these rules and many others, they risk getting kicked out.
The latest ‘Playbook’ of rules for the 90,500 overseas visitors to the Games – 11,500 athletes plus 79,000 coaches, support staff and officials – is explicit in stating this in a section headlined: ‘Non-respect of the Playbook’.
‘Failure to comply with these rules may result in disciplinary consequences,’ it says, listing just some of the things that might land you in trouble, from refusing to take a daily Covid test, to ‘intentionally disrespecting mask wearing’ to not adhering to social distancing.
The main dining hall in the Olympic Village at Tokyo 2020, where athletes will have to eat alone
Competitors will have to comply with extreme restrictions at the Games because of Covid
The penalties range from warnings to fines to exclusion from the Games, to disqualification if an ‘offence’ happens after an individual’s competition is finished.
The sex ban has been alluded to by the organisers in several ways. The latest Playbook says attendees must ‘avoid physical contact, including hugs and handshakes’, and ‘keep physical interactions with others to a minimum’.
Since the Seoul Olympics in 1988, Games organisers have given away hundreds of thousands of condoms to promote safe sex at Olympic villages packed with thousands of the fittest young men and women in the world. Tokyo’s organising committee have scrapped their plan to give away 160,000 condoms this time, saying they will instead be given out when athletes go home.
For the first time in any sporting event’s history, all attendees are obliged to own a smartphone, on which it is mandatory to install two Apps, one of which is daily health checker, the other to track and trace. You must enter the results of your daily Covid test as well as your temperature and other details about your well-being every day.
People from different delegations wait for Covid test results on arrival at Narita airport
If you don’t own a smartphone, you have to rent one on arrival and cannot leave the airport without one, with the Apps installed, also having shown proof of a negative test within 72 hours of departure to Japan. A further test is conducted on arrival at and that too must be negative before you can board a Games-approved vehicle to go to your accommodation. Using public transport is not allowed.
By Friday, there had been at least seven Covid cases in Japan among foreign Games delegations : two from Uganda, one from Israel, one from Serbia, one from Russia and one from a nation still to be confirmed. Both Ugandans had been double-jabbed and all those affected had had negative Covid tests within 72 hours of departure. A Nigerian official in his 60s was the first Games visitor to be hospitalised with Covid, on Friday.
The first case, last month, was a Ugandan coach and he was denied formal entry to the country, and sent instead to a special ‘isolation facility’.
Any Games participant testing positive for Covid will be sent to these facilities, typically local business hotels repurposed for the pandemic. You might also end up in one of those if you are ‘pinged’ as a close contact of a confirmed Covid carrier.
Security at the athlete’s village. Every foreign delegation will have a Covid Liaison Officer
In a note to those who might be detained, the Playbook says: ‘Your team will be allowed to bring you things (in the facility). However raw food, alcohol and cigarettes are prohibited. Smoking and drinking alcohol during your recuperation period will be strictly prohibited. You will not be allowed to go outside the hotel … The location and length of your isolation period will be determined by the Japanese health authorities.’
The updated Playbook rules are understandably extreme given recent opinion polls showing 80 per cent of Japan opposes these Olympics, although that figure has moved sharply downwards, even with many prefectures recently under a state of emergency.
All fans are now banned from attending any event, after organisers extended the ban on foreign visitors to include all domestic ticket holders. This move came after it was announced Japan is entering a new state of emergency as Covid-19 cases continue to arise.
Even when the plan was to allow domestic fans to attend, cheering, singing and flag-waving were banned, as was any spectator communication above a whisper.
The Games have caused huge controversy in Japan, with 80 per cent of locals opposing them
The Playbook messaging appears to serve two purposes: to encourage strict adherence to all Covid protocols, even if this results in a largely joyless Games; and to promote the idea the Olympics won’t endanger locals.
‘The ‘safety first’ rules are there to protect you, all Games participants and the people of Tokyo and Japan,’ the Playbook says. ‘But the success of the Games depends on every single one of us taking responsibility for following the Playbook at all times – starting now.’
Every foreign delegation will be assigned a Covid Liaison Officer, and every participant will have a list of people (as small as possible) that they need to associate with while in Japan.
‘Spend time only with the people identified on the list of regular contacts you provided to your CLO,’ says the Playbook. ‘Eat meals keeping two metres away from others unless instructed otherwise, or eat by yourself, keeping contacts to a minimum.’
Medal ceremonies will go ahead, although all involve will need to wear masks.