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Friday, August 06, 2021

Daily tests, isolation add to Indian athletes’ Tokyo Olympics tribulation

According to an advisory, athletes travelling from India have been instructed "not to interact or train with athlete(s) from another country" for the first three days upon reaching Tokyo.

Written by Mihir Vasavda | New Delhi |
Updated: June 19, 2021 1:48:04 pm
Deepak Kabra, Deepak Kabra first indian gymnastic judge, deepak kabra gymnastic judge olympicsDeepak Kabra has also officiated as a judge in the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games in 2018, Youth Olympics in Argentina, besides other international events such as World Cups (Reuters)

In a move that will impact athletes and officials travelling from India and those who will compete at Wimbledon as well as the Diamond League in London, the Tokyo Olympics organisers have imposed stricter restrictions on travellers from countries where different variants of Covid-19 have been identified.

According to an advisory issued on Friday, athletes travelling from India have been instructed ‘not to interact or train with athlete(s) from another country’ for the first three days upon reaching the Japanese capital. Moreover, they will have to get themselves tested for Covid-19 every day for the seven days immediately before departure, and every day after arriving in Tokyo. This means that some athletes, like hockey players, will have to undergo Covid tests for at least 21 consecutive days before and during the Games.

In addition to the wide range of rules already in place, the Tokyo Olympics organisers have imposed additional, stricter regulations on athletes and other Games participants travelling from 11 countries, including India, United Kingdom and Malaysia. The advisory noted that the new rules will be applicable to all travellers – including athletes, their coaches and support staff – who have resided in these countries within 14 days of their arrival in Tokyo.

No socialising

These rules are subject to change based on the Japanese government’s policy. “For three days after your (athletes and officials) arrival in Japan, you will not be able to physically interact with anyone from another team, delegation or country. For example, across all sports, you will not be able to interact or train with athlete(s) from another country during that period,” the note said.

“While all the regulations must be followed, those in place regarding physical distancing from other teams, delegations or countries, are of particular importance upon arrival…” the advisory added. “By following these important regulations, you will, as a Games participant, be allowed to go to the locations on the list of permitted destinations as of your arrival in Japan.”

So far, 100 Indian athletes have qualified for the Games, which begin on July 23, and the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) is expecting a dozen or so more sportspersons to make the cut before the qualifying period concludes at the end of this month.

While most of the medal contenders – including the shooting team, weightlifter Mirabai Chanu, javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, and wrestlers Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia – have already shifted their base outside India, many could not manage that because of the pandemic-related travel restrictions.

Training impact

The women and men’s hockey teams, boxers, table tennis players and track and field athletes are some of the athletes who are scheduled to travel to Tokyo from their respective bases in India.

The hockey teams, for instance, were scheduled to leave for Tokyo on July 17 and play a couple of practice matches before opening their campaigns at the Olympics. Now, unless they advance their travel dates, they will have to forego the practice games, which will come as a big blow to both teams given that they have already been starved of competitive matches.

However, travelling to Tokyo early could also pose a challenge since teams have been told to check into the Games Village no more than five days before their competition begins. So, alternate accommodation will have to be figured out if they reach early.

The boxers, meanwhile, are set to travel to Italy this month before returning to India and then flying out for the Games.

Recently, the Sports Authority of India had advised all Indian athletes to travel to Tokyo directly from the country where they are currently training or are planning to go.

The IOA, it is learnt, is in talks with the organisers to understand how the new rules will be implemented. “It isn’t a hard quarantine but the advisory says we cannot come in touch with athletes or delegates from others countries. So how and where will an athlete eat her or his meal? Similarly, where will they train given that the training areas will have athletes from other countries? Do they expect our athletes to train in isolation in the middle of the night?” an official said. “The IOA is in talks with the organisers and will try to work out a solution that is in the best interests of the country’s athletes.”

The new rules could also impact some tennis players who will take part in Wimbledon, which ends on July 12, and track and field stars who will compete in the Diamond League on July 13. Those travelling from the UK must get tested for Covid-19 every day for three days prior to their departure. The distancing rules for them, though, will remain the same as travellers from India.

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Additional restrictions

In an advisory issued on Friday, the Olympics organisers imposed more restrictions on athletes and officials from countries with Covid-19 variants. They were divided into two groups:

Group 1: Afghanistan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka

Testing: Every day, for seven days, prior to departure for Japan; every day at the Games

Distancing: For three days after arrival in Japan, no physical interaction with athletes and officials from other countries, including training sessions with them.

Group 2: Bangladesh, Egypt, Malaysia, United Kingdom and Vietnam

Testing: Every day, for three days, prior to departure; every day at the Games

Distancing: For three days after arrival in Japan, no physical interaction with athletes and officials from other countries, including training sessions with them.

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