tokyo 2020 olympics

Sapporo says it is unprepared for Olympics amid COVID-19 resurgence

14 Comments
By Ju-min Park

When Olympics organizers shifted the marathon event from Tokyo to the Hokkaido city of Sapporo, they did so because of concerns about the intense summer heat in the Japanese capital.

Two years down the track, critics say organizers have effectively leapt from the frying pan into the fire.

Sapporo is currently under a COVID-19 state of emergency amid a resurgence in coronavirus infections.

Officials in the city say they still don't have key information, including the number of athletes to expect and details on health facilities, while opposition from residents to hosting part of the world's biggest multi-sporting event has grown.

"There's no action yet," said Takashi Okugi, a Sapporo city official in charge of Olympic preparations. "We don't have enough time."

With less than two months to go, Hokkaido has the second-highest per capita COVID-19 rate in Japan, about 43% higher than that of Tokyo. Sapporo, which has a population of just under 2 million people, accounts for almost two-thirds of new cases.

Both city officials and residents are nervous about the huge influx of athletes and support staff at a time the city's medical system is already stretched.

Okugi said officials have made repeated requests to the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee, seeking essential details on issues including which hospitals would be designated to treat any infected participants.

"So far a lot of answers that we are hearing are like no decision yet or still under consideration," Okugi said. "Without a clear structure, we can't figure out yet how much the city's medical system can be affected so we want information from the organizing committee quickly."

The Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee did not immediately comment. Top Japanese government officials and Olympic organizers have pledged to hold a "safe and secure" Games by implementing strict coronavirus measures.

Sapporo early last month hosted a half marathon as a test event for the upcoming games. All participants, including six international athletes, had to log their temperature and answer a health questionnaire daily in the week leading up to the event.

With infections already on the rise in the city, organizers urged spectators not to come and watch the test race. Staff wore masks and sometimes face shields and plastic gloves.

World Athletics chief Sebastian Coe gave the test event high marks, saying organizers were able to deliver both on the operation of the race and on their COVID-19 countermeasures.

Organizers have already decided not to let in international spectators for the Games, but have yet to announce whether local spectators would be allowed to attend.

Okugi said that uncertainty meant no plans had yet been made to accommodate spectators in Sapporo, which is also scheduled to host soccer matches and race-walk events during the Games in July and August.

Many locals, who welcomed the Winter Olympics in 1972, are less keen on their summer cousin under the current circumstances.

More than a dozen civic groups in Hokkaido prefecture this week submitted a petition to demand the governor cancel all events scheduled to take place in the city.

"There’s not enough hospital beds. Hokkaido’s medical system is already collapsing," said Masamichi Nishio, a doctor and honorary director of Hokkaido Cancer Center, one of those representing the campaign.

Takako Ishido, a Hokkaido prefecture official working on Olympics planning, said she agreed with petition organizers that the safety of residents was the priority. Ishido said it was difficult to assess infection risks without an estimate of likely visitors to the city and called for more detailed information from Games organizers.

Nishio said many Sapporo residents with serious illnesses were unable to receive prompt treatment because hospital rooms were filled with COVID-19 cases.

"Why should we have Olympics here? Who will be responsible for people who die from coronavirus after the Olympics?" he said. "The government doesn’t care about our lives."

© Thomson Reuters 2021.

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

14 Comments
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Nishio sums it up.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

I don't understand why Hokkaido all of a sudden had such a rise of infections. It was no longer winter so no peeps traveling to the ski resorts from across Honshu. Not that cold anymore so more windows open in buildings and flu season coming to the end. Not even after the New Years celebration were infections that high.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

Two years down the track, critics say organizers have effectively leapt from the frying pan into the fire.

Officials in the city say they still don't have key information, including the number of athletes to expect and details.

"There's no action yet," said Takashi Okugi, a Sapporo city official in charge of Olympic preparations. "We don't have enough time."

2 years to plan, and they still haven’t started? And they have roughly 6 weeks to go?

Sounds like typical Japanese procrastinating procedure to me.

What’s the issue? They are right on schedule, in Japanese terms…..

9 ( +10 / -1 )

‘Don’t worry’, he says: “All is well” -(Daijobu).

- “World Athletics chief Sebastian Coe gave the test event high marks, **saying**organizers were able to deliver both on the operation of the race and on their COVID-19 countermeasures.” -

The temperature and weather, temperature COVID conditions are roughly the same in both May and July-August, right?

We can trust them, can’t we?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

High infection rate for Hokkaido - Golden Week "after-burner"?

Same like Okinawa? Guess it's (almost) too late to cancel that marathon.

Listening to medical staff from up there: too many infections, not enough ICU beds, people who desperately need surgery will not be able to get it done, and so on. Dump (not just) this marathon. People's health should come first!

3 ( +4 / -1 )

They forgot to mention the major decrease of cases in Sapporo over the past 2 weeks.

https://twitter.com/KH_HokujinIGRTC/status/1402636745821233154

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

” we don’t know the number of participants “ ?

HEY ? The number of athletes per event is known for 8 years.

The governor can decide to allow zero spectators if he wants, so also no problem

BUT they know the resurgence of the virus came after Mr Coe’s “ near perfect test event “ from May.

as for the promises on safe bubbles:

in world cycling, enal Bernal Winner of last week's Giro d italia was positive 2 days after and an entire protour team just pulled out with a positive case of the Tour of Switserland.

2 players of both the Spanish and Swedish EURO soccer event are positive already.

leader Rahm pulled out of 4th round of golf tournament, positive test.

all of these are in “ safe bubbles” The list is endless. The athletes always come through quite well but the public ??

Hokkaido is the proof after the May test event, that is why they are so nervous

4 ( +5 / -1 )

For those thinking about taking the marathon events away from Hokkaido at this stage, it’s impossible. The athletes have specifically prepared for the Hokkaido course and conditions. These long distance road events are the most difficult for venue changes. Same goes for road cycling.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

*Entirely too much ‘*tunnel-vision’ by those ‘in charge’. 

“With less than 2 months to go, Hokkaido has the second-highest COVID-19 rate in Japan, 43% higher than that of Tokyo. Sapporo’s population of just under 2 million, accounts for almost two-thirds of new cases.” -

0 ( +1 / -1 )

‘The Triad’ (the IOCLDPJOC) need to stop ‘squinting so much’ less they fail to see the whole of Japan and ‘its People’.

- “Both city offs & resids are nervous about the huge influx of athletes and support staff at a time the city's medical system is already stretched.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Perhaps the people of Shiga want to jump in on some of that JOC yen? If ‘the Trifecta of Ignorance’ (the IOCLDPJOC) insist on continuing with their Games, @robertmaes 9:33am aren’t the majority of roads around the eastern side of Biwako in Shiga ‘flat, wide, remote from the general population and quite breezy’ for a marathon in July? (They’re already frequented by cyclists daily.)

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Just keep those who are covid + at home, mask up , and only allow vaccinated people to participate in the race, as runners or race attendants.

There, all fixed and no more worries.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

in world cycling, enal Bernal Winner of last week's Giro d italia was positive 2 days after and an entire protour team just pulled out with a positive case of the Tour of Switserland.

Even if players are in a bubble, the team staff is not always, and the same for the family members.

Bernal did not hesitate to kiss his girlfriend just after the finish line, hug with some family members. All do the same.

Pro cycling has been stricter to retire teams, than the pro sport in Japan where only 1 case does not justify a team to retire

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Forbid crowds from forming, and make it a televised event. It is a shame, but what alternative is there, is one does not want to turn it into a super-spreader event?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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