(ATR) North Korea pulls out of Tokyo 2020 due to COVID-19 fears, prompting increased concern that it could be the first of more withdrawals amid the ongoing pandemic.
The announcement was made on a website run by the North Korean sports ministry.
The Japanese government’s top spokesperson, Kato Katsunobu, told a press conference on Tuesday that Japan would continue with its countermeasures to the coronavirus "so that many countries and regions can take part in the Tokyo Games".
Japan currently faces an increasing number of COVID-19 cases while also dealing with a slow vaccine rollout. That has heightened worries among Japanese of holding the postponed Games.
It is unclear how many North Korean athletes could have participated anyway, given that they have not been allowed to travel and compete at Olympic qualifying events since the country closed its borders early in 2020.
North Korea’s decision also ends the Japanese government’s hopes of holding direct talks during the Olympics on the issue of abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korea in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
North Korea sent 22 athletes to the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang. Some of them were part of a combined Korean women’s ice hockey team, a first for the two countries amid a major diplomatic breakthrough. But the thaw in relations has not been sustained since then.
Water Polo Test Event Postponed
Tokyo 2020 announced on Tuesday that the water polo test event scheduled for April 10-11 has been postponed.
The decision was made following consultations with all stakeholders involved with the event, including Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA).
New dates in May or June are currently being explored.
Two other FINA test events, one in diving and the other in artistic swimming, remain on the Tokyo 2020 calendar.
Both are also to be used as Olympic qualifiers. The Diving World Cup is scheduled for April 18-23 and the Olympic Qualification Tournament for artistic swimming from May 1-4.
But FINA’s website has them listed as "to be confirmed" and said that a "re-allocating" decision would be announced this week.
Tokyo 2020 Volunteer Training
A training session for Field Cast volunteers will be held on April 10.
This will be the first training for specific roles for the volunteers working at competition venues and the Olympic Village. Previously, only orientation and general training sessions had been held.
Online training for those assigned a "chaperone" role will take place. Volunteers performing these roles will provide healthcare support, specifically helping athletes during the doping test process. This will include notifying athletes when they are required to undergo testing, guiding them to the examination room and helping them to register.
Role-specific and leadership training begins this month, with venue-specific training set to start in June.
Field Cast volunteers are to receive their uniforms beginning in May.
Written by Gerard Farek
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