Tokyo officials show off Covid-safe Olympic Village

Tokyo - Japanese authorities revealed a dedicated virus clinic, beds made from recycled cardboard, and a slew of safety protocols.


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Published: Sun 20 Jun 2021, 11:12 AM

Last updated: Sun 20 Jun 2021, 11:18 AM

Tokyo 2020 organisers threw open the doors of the Olympic Village to the media on Sunday, showcasing virus upgrades including a fever clinic just over a month before the Games begin.

Organisers are in the home stretch of preparations before the July 23 opening ceremony, and are trying to build confidence that the mega-event will be safe for athletes and the Japanese public.

On Sunday, they unveiled the dedicated virus clinic, warned that drinking in groups would be prohibited and said a mixed zone for guests had been scrapped.

Warning posters that caution residents to take anti-virus measures including room ventilation have been placed throughout the mini-city, which can sleep 18,000 athletes and team members during the Olympics and 8,000 during the Paralympics.

The fever clinic, separate from the main medical facility, will be used to test and isolate people suspected of virus infection or considered close contacts of those who test positive.

“If there is suspicion of being infected... we should be able to properly isolate this person,” said Takashi Kitajima, general manager for the village.

“This is just another example of how we are stringently managing matters about possible Covid infections,” he told reporters.

Other measures include reduced seating for diners, plexiglass shields between gym equipment, and a kit of hand sanitisers and soap to be handed to village residents.

Built on reclaimed land looking out over Tokyo Bay, the village has been empty except for workers since the event was postponed last March.

Opening in just over a fortnight, the village will be particularly important for athletes this Games because they are barred from going anywhere else except training and competition venues.

Under strict virus rules, athletes will be tested daily and required to wear masks except during competition, eating and sleeping. And there will be no partying, officials warned.

“When you drink alcohol, in principle, you are requested to drink alone,” said Kitajima.

Competitors can only enter the village shortly before their event and must leave within 48 hours of being eliminated or their competition ending.

And conditions won’t exactly be luxurious, with single rooms of nine square metres (100 square feet) and doubles of 12 square metres (130 sq ft).

Beds are made from recyclable cardboard, but are tough enough to stand up to beefy weightlifters and towering basketball players, organisers say.

Olympic officials expect most of those staying in the village will have been vaccinated, but the rules apply regardless of inoculation status, and athletes could be kicked out of the Games if they fail to comply.

In a taste of the challenges ahead, a member of the Ugandan Olympic delegation that arrived in Japan on Saturday tested positive for the virus, despite reportedly being vaccinated and testing negative before travel.

The safety measures are set to make for a Games like no other, with overseas fans already banned and a decision on domestic spectators expected next week.

Organisers are battling public opposition to the Games, with national polls regularly showing most Japanese would prefer the event be delayed or postponed. But recent surveys have showed sentiment may be shifting as the Games approach.

A handful of protesters stood outside chanting against the Olympics as media toured the village, which will be transformed into thousands of luxury bayside condos after the Games.

Around 900 of the units — some carrying a price tag of 170 million yen (Dh5.5 million) — were sold before Tokyo 2020 was pushed back by a year.

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