Tokyo holds a one-day gymnastics meet
Japan provided a glimpse on Sunday of what the delayed Tokyo Olympics may look like next summer as fans attended the country’s first international sporting competition since the pandemic shutdown.
The gymnastics “Friendship and Solidarity Competition” gathered around 30 athletes from Japan, China, Russia and the US to compete in tightly controlled bio-secure conditions.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Japanese government previously agreed to a one-year delay of the Tokyo Olympics to next summer because of the pandemic.
About 2,000 fans in face masks sanitised their hands regularly, checked their body temperature and remained socially distanced at the 8,700-capacity Yoyogi No.1 Gymnasium, while being encouraged not to shout to avoid spreading droplets.
Strict hygiene measures
Athletes and journalists were subject to similarly strict hygiene measures and were also sprayed with a sanitising mist.
The spectators resorted to polite applause and occasional murmurs as gymnasts pulled off gravity-defying routines and feats of strength.
IOC President Thomas Bach said he hoped the event could demonstrate how Tokyo 2020 organisers could next year hold an Olympics that is safe for athletes, officials and fans.
“With this competition, you are also setting an example that sports can be organised safely even under the ongoing health restrictions,” Bach said in a video message at the opening ceremony.
Some medical experts have voiced scepticism about whether the massive international gathering can be held safely in a pandemic, without a vaccine.
For the Tokyo gymnastics event, the athletes had gone through strict sanitation rules to shield themselves from the coronavirus with at least two weeks of isolation before flying to Japan.
Once in Tokyo, they were immediately placed under strict bio-secure protocols, restricted to designated floors of their hotel, and could only leave to take assigned buses to practice and competition venues.
After the competition, many athletes admitted that they could not perform at their highest level but they understood the restrictions were necessary.
Three-time Olympic gold medallist and local star Kohei Uchimura took part, after his positive coronavirus test turned out to be false.