(ATR) Around the Rings was on location for Tokyo 2020’s official unveiling of the Paralympic Village as a press tour of around 170 members of the media was granted exclusive access.
Media assembled outside the Olympic Plaza along the Harumi waterfront district of Tokyo.
The Olympic and Paralympic Games truly felt imminent as Japanese and international media poured into the Plaza to start the tour amid a backdrop of a handful of anti-Olympics protesters which did little to deter the general feeling of enthusiasm.
Media used the hand sanitizer provided by officials before providing a health form and checking in to pick up their pass for the day in a typically fluid process.
The Olympic Plaza is a central hub for athletes and will have amenities such as a goods store, café, and post office which will support athletes during their stay during the Games. The Village Plaza will also be the venue for the team welcome ceremonies.
After the Games, the Village Plaza will be dismantled, and the timber will be returned to the municipalities that donated it for re-use in local facilities that will help to commemorate the Games - for example, public benches or parts of school buildings.
The first-class facilities provided a very real feel to the postponed Games’ finally taking place this summer and more so than previous press conferences and test events.
Following a trip around the plaza, the tour moved on to the Olympic and Paralympic Village from where a hugely detailed press briefing provided some insight into the daily and 24/7 operation of the village.
Satoshi Yamashita, Tokyo 2020 Games Operation Bureau Executive Director said: "We would like you to look around the heart of the village, which will open on 13 July with a pre-opening on 6 July. We only have two weeks to go, so we are at the stage of the final preparation but please look at the current village and we hope you enjoy it and like what you see."
Takashi Kitajima, Tokyo 2020 Games Operation Bureau Village Management Department, Village General Manager said: "The Village is surrounded by the sea on three sides to enjoy the sea breeze and the nature. It is a good location to welcome athletes and delegates. We have three zones. Village plaza, in the mixed zone, athletes delegates and media will go there. The yellow zone is the residential zone. This residential zone only athletes are allowed to enter. The green zone is the operational zone in order to support this event we need staff and an area to move things and for logistics [so] we have an operational zone.
"Olympic village athletes receive services for free. The Village plaza will have a licensed shop with goods. Plaza services have a fee. Yellow zone is offered for free. You can see the vending machines in residential zones. That’s the difference.
"Residential buildings include under 3800 residential units in this zone. The building area is divided into size zones. We have different rooms available. There are rooms for two members right up to eight members. Every room has windows which allows for natural ventilation. We have spacious corridors which means that for the Paralympics two wheelchair users can pass each other."
Kitajima said that athletes will have plenty of options for both dining and fitness.
"The main dining hall is two-story facility with a total size of 15,800 square meters. Social distancing will be in effect. Seven hundred menus will be offered over a rotation of eight days. We will offer simple dishes and athletes can think about their nutrition without being stressed.We will have food from all 47 prefectures which we hope will be appealing to international athletes.
"We have a multi-function complex which has a clinic on the first floor, the second floor is for casual dining and recreation while the third floor is for fitness.
"The fitness center is one of the most important facilities in the village. Our focus is conditioning for athletes. That’s what athletes themselves have requested. The machines are for conditioning rather than for muscle building. However, we have prepared about 600 pieces of aerobic machines. We have partitions between the machines. Infection countermeasures will be in place. We are still installing the partitions and some construction work is not finished yet."
Katijima also outlined the medical services available at the Village.
"The polyclinic provides a variety of medical services and we also have to take into consideration some injuries and physical therapy. Broken bones mean you go to hospital but for conditioning and physical therapy athletes can do that here. We have a temporary fever clinic. If we believe someone is infected with an infectious disease we can properly isolate that person. This is another example of how we are stringently managing the issues of possible infections.
"For doping control we will do our best to maintain the privacy of athletes and this will be behind closed doors. We have nine doping rooms from where we can take urine and blood samples. It’s a very important procedure so we have to process it properly.
"For the NOC and NPC services center, this building used to be used as ferry terminal by the Japanese government, this room used to be the waiting room for people getting onto ships. We are making the best use of conventional facilities so we don’t need to construct new buildings, that’s the spirit under which we constructed this village.
"Each NOC and NPC will use this building. It’s a one-stop location for convenience of NOCs and NPCs. Every morning teams have regular meetings and this room can be used as the venue for such meetings. We have a transport mall, this is the core of locations, people will be going back and forth between the village. The transport mall will be the hub for such movements.
"The athletes village is the hub to connect these various venues together. At the transport mall we don’t want people waiting for a long time. We want to mitigate stress for athletes waiting in the heat for transport. By the side of residential buildings, we also have a green space, green way, 900 meters, where athletes can relax and get some casual exercise, this park is also used as a pathway for the staff."
Satoshi Yamashita, Tokyo 2020 Games Operation Bureau Executive Director added: "As per the version two playbook, everyday screening tests will be provided and as variants have spread we need to do it everyday and in order to get the result on the same day, we need to coordinate schedules and process time has to be shortened to test all athletes. The frequency was decided as every day, when we tried to do once in four days, we thought capacity issue will impact processing time, if we ask athletes to come for results, it won’t be available before Olympic Games, by NOC and NPC they will help to get samples from athletes and officers will provide the samples to us."
Takashi Kitajima, Tokyo 2020 Games Operation Bureau Village Management Department, Village General Manager added: "Around 8,000 staff members at any one time will be working in the village which will run 24/7."
Satoshi Yamashita, Tokyo 2020 Games Operation Bureau Executive Director added, commented on the protocol for athletes testing positive on arrival in Japan as per the case from a Ugandan athlete.
"From 1 July the playbook starts, if someone tests positive at an airport, we pick them up, they come to fever clinic in village, without any contact, go inside isolation area, they will be diagnosed by a medical practitioner, we will take samples for testing, analysis of PCR, if positive or asymptomatic then we will move them to an isolation facility, if they need to be hospitalized then we will work with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government."
Under an unrelenting sun, the media and Tokyo 2020 officials took a brief pause from the tour outside for Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto and Saburo Kawabuchi, Tokyo 2020 Village Mayor, to greet the media.
Hashimoto welcomed and thanked the gathered media, adding "I believe this athletes village is great, everyone will enjoy and can move freely here. There’s great scenery and views from the village. The dining room is very good, we have great training facilities and everyone can now experience Japanese culture through our hospitality for the athletes. Everyone needs to follow the playbook rules and we need everyone’s cooperation for a successful Olympics."
Kawabuchi said "The facilities and environment of this village was shown to President Bach in November and he said it’s the best he’s ever seen.
"There will be restrictions and rules, masks on at all times and social distancing. We are concerned to make sure athletes enjoy their stay. Now we don’t just look at the Games from a domestic perspective, it's an international event for the world. We have faced so many challenges, athletes have been unsure about competing previously. Now we want to show the world the pride and courage of Japan."
Written and reported by Mark Pickering in Tokyo
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