Olympics: 'Safe' test events set to resume in Japan

A torchbearer runs with a convoy during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic torch relay in Naraha, Fukushima, on March 25, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (AFP) - Tokyo Olympics organisers on Monday (March 29) unveiled virus countermeasures for test events that will resume later this week for the first time since the Games were postponed by the pandemic.

Tokyo 2020 chiefs pledged to hold the remaining 18 test events - which function as dress rehearsals for each sport - in a "safe and secure" manner, to see what they can "learn as we work towards the Games".

International athletes could be invited to participate too.

Test events were halted after the sport climbing event was held from March 6 to 8 last year, with Tokyo 2020 staff replacing athletes because of infection concerns.

The first test event since the unprecedented postponement of the Games will be wheelchair rugby this weekend, with water polo to follow one week later.

Tokyo 2020 Games delivery officer Hidemasa Nakamura said countermeasures would be based on the virus rulebooks unveiled by organisers earlier this year.

"We're trying to limit contact, avoid handshakes and other physical contact, and keep distance between athletes - one metre if two isn't possible," he said.

Cheering will be banned and rooms and common spaces ventilated every 30 minutes.

Fourteen of the test events will be organised by Tokyo 2020, with the other four run by international federations.

Nakamura said the athletics test event at Tokyo's National Stadium on May 9 will be the only event organised by Tokyo 2020 where overseas athletes will participate and spectators will be present.

He said fans and overseas athletes will likely be involved in the four events organised by international federations - diving, water polo, artistic swimming and the marathon.

Games official Yasuo Mori added: "Athletes coming here for the events organised by the international federations will have to go through immigration controls, so of course they're important test events for the organising committee."

Earlier this month, Olympic officials announced that overseas fans will be barred from the Games, which open on July 23, to help limit the virus risk.

A decision on how many domestic spectators will be allowed to attend is expected in April.

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