Tokyo water polo test event off

Concerns over Covid protocol, issuance of visas among reported reasons for scrapping

TOKYO • Tokyo Olympic organisers yesterday said they had decided to postpone a water polo test event planned for this weekend, as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to disrupt preparations for the start of the Games in July.

Organisers are seeking a suitable date next month or in June to hold the event, the Tokyo 2020 committee said.

"Carrying out test events is greatly important for the preparation of the Tokyo 2020 Games," a statement read.

"In order to ensure the best level of preparations for these test events and for the Tokyo 2020 Games, considering the schedule of each stakeholder under the current global Covid-19 conditions, it was felt that postponing the events was necessary."

Public broadcaster NHK reported earlier that overseas officials were unable to come to Japan for the event due to strict Covid-19 countermeasures.

The postponement is a setback for organisers just days after they restarted test events, which are important dry runs to confirm the Games' operational capabilities, for the first time in more than a year.

Organisers were initially planning to hold 18 test events by next month, but that no longer looks feasible with the International Swimming Federation (Fina) expected to cancel Olympic qualifiers for diving and synchronised swimming that were to double as test events in Tokyo.

It is also expected to scrap a non-test event, the Olympic marathon swim qualifier in Fukuoka late next month.

Fina said last Friday it was reviewing the events and would make an announcement this week, without giving a reason.

However, the BBC reported that the global swimming body felt the organisers' planned Covid-19 precautions "will not properly ensure" the safety of athletes at the diving competition.

It is also unhappy that several Japanese embassies around the world had yet to issue visas to nations that planned to compete, and cited other factors including rising costs of measures to control the spread of Covid-19 that Fina was asked to pay for.

Yasuo Mori, a senior Tokyo 2020 official, acknowledged on Sunday that Fina intended to cancel the events and said Tokyo organisers would hold talks with the body this week. The calendar on Fina's website shows the status of the events as already being cancelled, but its representatives did not immediately reply to an e-mailed request for comment.

Japan is struggling with a nascent fourth wave of infections driven by variants of the coronavirus and the resurgence in cases is also affecting the nationwide Olympic torch relay.

The city of Osaka has formally requested that its leg of the torch relay, scheduled for next Wednesday, be cancelled as Japan's second biggest metropolitan area grapples with a spike in infections.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 07, 2021, with the headline 'Tokyo water polo test event off'. Subscribe