The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee still plans on sending athletes to the 2021 Tokyo Games despite a State Department travel advisory warning Americans against visiting Japan due to rising COVID-19 infection rates within the country.
In a statement given to DailyMail.com on Tuesday, the USOPC said testing and other practices can ensure the safety of participants.
‘We have been made aware of the updated State Department advisory as it relates to Japan,’ read a statement from the USOPC. ‘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.’
By ‘mitigation practices,’ the statement is referring to testing and distancing protocols that have already been instituted for training and trials events in the US ahead of the 2021 Olympics, a USOPC spokesman told DailyMail.com. Athletes are not required to be vaccinated, but the USOPC is encouraging all of its Olympians to do so.
Currently Japanese cities are under a state of emergency for at least the next few weeks as the country has seen rise in COVID-19 infections since March 1, when the seven-day rolling average for new cases was just 1,008, according to Our World Data. Over the last seven days, however, Japan has averaged 4,828 cases per day.
Just 5.1 percent of Japan’s 1.7 billion people are vaccinated. For comparison, the United States’ vaccination rate is nearly at 40 percent.
People wearing masks to help protect against the spread of the coronavirus walk in front of a screen showing the news on U.S. warning against visits to Japan Tuesday, May 25, 2021, in Tokyo. U.S. health officials and the State Department on Monday warned Americans against travel to Japan because of a surge in coronavirus cases in the country, which is preparing to host the Olympics in just two months
Speaking with CNN , USOPC member Dick Pound said that cancelling the 2021 Olympics is ‘essentially off the table.’ Pound wouldn’t guarantee that the Games would go off without any COVID-related issues, but he did say that a ‘bubble’ could be created around the athletes to ensure their safety during the competition
Pound wouldn’t guarantee that the Games would go off without any COVID-related issues, but he did say that a ‘bubble’ could be created around the athletes to ensure their safety during the competition.
‘Nobody can guarantee anything,’ Pound said. ‘I mean, let’s be reasonable on that.
‘But all the indications are that the bubble can be created and maintained and daily, or whatever the frequency of tests will be, will identify any indications that there may be some people having the virus that are there. They’ll be put into isolation right away.’
US Olympic gymnast Simone Biles will likely be participating in the 2021 Tokyo Games
Pound also stressed that the IOC has not given any indication it is considering cancelling the Games.
‘None of the folks involved in the planning and the execution of the Games is considering cancellation,’ Pound said. ‘That’s essentially off the table. Whether there’s some huge event of some sort that we can’t anticipate that might intervene in the next 60 days, who knows.’
The USOPC has created playbooks for athletes and organizers, instructing everyone on the best ways to reduce the risk of infection for before, during and after the 2021 Olympics, which are still set to open on July 23.
Foreign spectators were previously banned from attending the Games, but the families of Olympians will be permitted.
Katsunobu Kato, the Chief Cabinet Secretary, said Tuesday that the travel advisory does not prohibit essential travel, nor does it signal an end to US support for the Tokyo Olympics.
‘We believe there is no change to the US position supporting the Japanese government’s determination to achieve the games,’ Kato said, adding that Washington has told Tokyo the travel warning is not related to the participation of the U.S. Olympic team.
Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee, said Monday that she does not believe the travel advisory poses a threat to the games. ‘I’m aware the USOPC said that the advisory wouldn’t affect the games,’ she said. ‘I think it’s important for us to prepare well to accept athletes under such restrictions’
Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee, said Monday that she does not believe the travel advisory poses a threat to the games.
‘I’m aware the USOPC said that the advisory wouldn’t affect the games,’ she said. ‘I think it’s important for us to prepare well to accept athletes under such restrictions.’
Despite organizers’ confidence in the safety of the upcoming Games, 83 percent of Japanese citizens oppose holding the Olympics in Tokyo this summer, according to an Asahi Shimbun survey. Furthermore, 43 percent said the Games should be canceled outright.
The US isn’t alone in pleading caution ahead of the Games. China, which will host the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, also advised against non-essential travel.
‘At present, the world is still facing a grave situation of fighting COVID-19,’ foreign minister spokesperson Zhao Lijian said Tuesday. ‘For protecting people’s health and safety, we advise Chinese citizens to avoid unnecessary cross-border travels.’
apan: Display at Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. Nearly 70% of Japanese firms want the Tokyo Olympics either cancelled or postponed, a Reuters survey found, underscoring concerns that the Games will increase coronavirus infections at a time when the medical system is under heavy strain. With just nine weeks to go before the Games, states of emergency have been imposed in much of Japan until the end of the month to counter a spike in infections that has resulted in a shortage of medical staff and hospital beds in some areas. The country’s vaccination programme has also been particularly slow, with just 5 percent of the population inoculated, the lowest rate among the Group of Seven nations