Four-Nation Gymnastics Hints at how Pandemic Olympics Might Work

Tokyo, Nov 8 (AFP/APP): Japan provided a glimpse 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. Athletes and journalists were subject to similarly strict hygiene measures and were also sprayed with a sanitizing 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 organizers 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 organized safely even under the ongoing health restrictions,” Bach said in a video message at the opening ceremony.

Some medical experts have voiced skepticism about whether the massive international gathering can be held safely in a pandemic, without a vaccine.

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