illustration of people wearing masks
Safety First
14 June, 2021

What’s the deal with the Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer? Well, they might look a little different this time around, but they’re happening. Here’s what to expect.

Who will be going?

More than 15,000 Olympic and Paralympic athletes from over 200 countries are expected to arrive in Tokyo for the Games. There will also be officials, coaches, support staff, and media. In an interview with the Toronto Star, Marnie McBean, chef de mission of Team Canada, said they are trimming back their mission team, with fewer staff and volunteers on the ground in Tokyo.

Will there be fans in the stands?

Not this year. In March, Tokyo organizers and the IOC announced that there will be no overseas spectators permitted. The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic is still a pressing concern, with the emergence of variant strains and international travel restrictions in place globally. “Based on the present situation of the pandemic, it is highly unlikely that entry into Japan will be guaranteed this summer for people from overseas,” the organizer’s statement reads.  

Update: Tokyo Olympics to allow local fans - but with strict limits.  According to a article published June 21, 2021 in the Associated Press, organizers have set a limit of 50 per cent capacity, up to a maximum of 10, 000 fans, all of whom must be Japanese residents. 

What’s the plan?

A 33-page “playbook” was developed by Tokyo 2020 organizers, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Paralympic Committee. The playbook details the ins and outs of the safety precautions that will be in place. It includes familiar COVID-19 guidelines like avoiding close physical contact, regular hand washing, covering your mouth to sneeze or cough, disinfecting surfaces, wearing a mask, and well-ventilated rooms.

“Your journey does not begin at the airport,” the playbook reads. Travellers must monitor their health 14 days before they even head to Tokyo. Visitors will have to produce a negative test prior to departure for the Games and must provide another upon arrival. Upon arrival, travellers will not have to quarantine, but their activities will be restricted for their first 14 days in Japan, including no public transit, tourist destinations, or restaurants, bars, and stores.

Visitors are also required to report their personal health each day via Japan’s smartphone application for contact tracing and health reporting. Regular COVID-19 tests and temperature checks will be in place.

The playbook also cautions against unnecessary forms of physical contact like hugs, high-fives, and handshakes, and to refrain from singing or chanting—but clapping is okay.

Will athletes have to be vaccinated?

A vaccine is not required to participate in the Games, but when vaccinations are made available to the broader public, “the IOC calls for Olympic and Paralympic teams to be vaccinated” after priority groups.

How are the athletes handling these restrictions?

Athletes have been through a lot since the postponement of the Games in March of last year—cancelled competitions, uncertainty about the Games, and a lack of access to training facilities. But, athletes are also highly adaptable and resilient.

In April, Jacob Saunders and Oliver Bone of the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron were selected to represent Canada at the Summer Olympics. Saunders says the Canadian Olympic team has made a big effort to keep athletes informed about what to expect and how the Games will be different from previous years. “There's a lot of very strict rules we'll have to follow so that certainly makes the Games feel safe both for us and for the Japanese public.”