The organisers of the 2020 Olympics are planning a silent Games in Tokyo, with bans on singing and chanting among a list of restrictions officials say will protect athletes, staff and the public from coronavirus.
The IOC’s first “Covid playbook”, published on Wednesday, is aimed at sports federations and technical officials, but similar measures designed to prevent the Games from becoming a superspreader event are expected to apply to athletes – and possibly spectators – when the Olympics open on 23 July.
The playbook says visitors should “support athletes by clapping and not singing or chanting”, while athletes will be subject to testing a minimum of once every four days while they are in Tokyo. All visitors will be required to present proof of a recent negative test upon arrival in Japan, but vaccination will not be a condition of participating in the Games, which were postponed for a year last March as the pandemic began its spread across the globe.
Athletes and officials will not be permitted to use public transport without permission, must also wear face masks when appropriate, and practice social distancing. Exceptions will be made for when athletes are eating, sleeping or outside.
Despite speculation the postponed Games could be called off as a result of the pandemic, the IOC’s executive director, Christophe Dubi, said he was confident the guidelines would ensure the safety of everyone involved. “The health and safety of everyone at the Olympic and Paralympic Games are our top priority,” he said. “We each have our part to play. That’s why these playbooks have been created – with the rules that will make each and every one of us a sound, safe and active contributor to the Games.”
Dubi added that Tokyo 2020 “will be remembered as a historic moment for humanity, the Olympic movement and all those contributing to their success”.
Craig Spence, of the International Paralympic Committee, said the world knew much more about the virus – and how to contain it – than it did when the Games were postponed. “The thousands of international sports events that have taken place safely over the last year have given us valuable learning experiences,” he said.
“Combining this new knowledge with existing knowhow has enabled us to develop these playbooks, which will be updated with greater detail ahead of the Games.”
Detailed guidelines for broadcasters, athletes and the media will be released in the coming days.
While a decision on whether to allow fans to attend is not expected for a few months, anyone watching the events will be told to refrain from singing or shouting and to show their support by applauding instead.
Athletes and officials will be banned from visiting bars, restaurants and tourist spots in Tokyo and will only be permitted to travel on official transport between the venues and their accommodations. The playbook warns them they could be ejected from the Games for serious or repeated violations of the rules.
“We draw to your attention that risks and impacts may not be fully eliminated and that you agree to attend … at your own risk,” the playbook says. “We trust that these measures are proportionate to mitigate the above-mentioned risks and impacts and we fully count on your support to comply with them. Non-respect of the rules … may expose you to consequences that may have an impact on your participation … [and] your access to Games venues.
“Repeated or serious failures to comply with these rules may result in the withdrawal of your accreditation and right to participate.”
Japan has been hit less severely by the pandemic than many other comparable countries, with fewer than 6,000 deaths recorded. But a recent surge in cases last month forced the government to declare a state of emergency in Tokyo and other hard-hit regions that is due to last until early March and to close its borders to non-resident foreigners.
There is growing concern that an influx of 15,400 Olympic and Paralympic athletes, as well as large number of sponsors, officials and other Games-related staff will spread the virus. Opinion polls show that a large majority of Japanese people do not want the Olympics to go ahead.
The playbook was released as medical officials in Tokyo warned that doctors and nurses treating Covid-19 patients would not have the time to volunteer at the Olympics. Satoru Arai, the director of the Tokyo Medical Association, said staff were under too much pressure to even consider signing up for Olympic duty.
“No matter how I look at it, it’s impossible,” he told Reuters. “I’m hearing doctors who initially signed up to volunteer say there’s no way they can take time off to help when their hospitals are completely overwhelmed.”
Games organisers and the Tokyo metropolitan government have asked the association to secure more than 3,500 medical staff for the event.