COVID Concerns Endanger Tokyo 2020 Events

(ATR) Tokyo 2020 president Hashimoto says decisions have yet to be made for Osaka Torch Relay dates or diving test event.

(ATR) Tokyo 2020 president Hashimoto Seiko says that final decisions have yet to be reached amid COVID concerns about both the Torch Relay proceeding through Osaka Prefecture and the staging of an upcoming diving test event.

However, Osaka governor Hirofumi Yoshimura told reporters on Thursday that the prefectural government will formally decide to cancel the relay segment in the near future and will then inform the organizing committee for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. The Torch Relay is expected to pass through the western city of Osaka on April 13-14.

Hashimoto said the involved parties hope "to come to an agreement at our earliest convenience", addressing media at a news conference from Tokyo on Friday.

"Things can change drastically before we make the next step," Hashimoto said. "We do have a torch relay that is carefully keeping up with the daily developments, especially surrounding COVID.

"We need to be flexible to we can accommodate changing events that come up."

A diving test event being organized by FINA, scheduled for April 18-23, also appears to be in jeopardy over virus concerns.

"Last night we received a letter from FINA, but the details on the conclusion on whether they will be canceling this event or not, has not yet been stipulated," Hashimoto said.

The possibility of inviting overseas athletes for the diving event has since been scrapped, according to Hashimoto.

Eighteen test events are scheduled over the final lead-up to the Games, 14 of which are being organized by Tokyo 2020 and the other four by the respective international federations.

"The more we think about safety control, the more we may need to restrain about holding events," Hashimoto said. "There are many options that we need to think of.

"If we think about safety, we have no choice but to tighten the ropes. But by tightening the ropes, we may not be able to hold some events, so this is a balancing challenge for us and we are running out of time.

"We need to have constructive discussion, so athletes we be reassured to having a sense of safety when they attend these events."

Hashimoto also informed that a replacement for Sasaki Hiroshi, the creative director for the Tokyo 2020 opening and closing ceremonies who resigned last month after making sexist comments about a popular female Japanese actress, will not be necessary. Instead, she says there will just be a restructuring of the creative team producing the ceremonies.

"We have come quite far on the planning of the ceremonies, so now it's a matter of fine-tuning and brushing up on the details, so we would like to carry on with the existing team," the Tokyo 2020 leader said. "So we do not feel there is any need to appoint a successor to replace Mr. Sasaki."

Hashimoto also informed that with 112 days until the opening ceremony, 283 new employees have been hired by the organizing committee, increasing the total to 3,929.

The Tokyo 2020 president said that she formally welcomed the new employees virtually yesterday, emphasizing three key messages: Anti-COVID measures, promotion of gender equality, and the Tokyo model and its succession.

Written and reported by Brian Pinelli

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