Tokyo Athletics Test Event on Track Without Fans

(ATR) World Athletics president Sebastian Coe meets with Tokyo 2020 president Hashimoto ahead of Sunday's event.

(ATR) Planned as one of the main Tokyo 2020 test events – with a sizable international field and spectators filling Olympic Stadium – the ‘Ready Steady Tokyo - Athletics’ meeting moves forward, but under different circumstances.

Considering Tokyo’s current state of emergency, there will be no fans permitted in the 68,000-capacity venue and only nine overseas athletes competing at the Japan Grand Prix series event on Sunday, May 9.

World Athletics president Sebastian Coe, who traveled to Sapporo for the half-marathon road race test event on Wednesday, will also be present at the upcoming meet, accompanying Tokyo 2020 officials and organizers.

"I well remember in London these months where all the test events were taking place and you’re not just testing the field of play or many of the functional areas – the support, the athletes and field of play, but mercifully in London, we didn’t have the added complexity of worrying about protocols around a pandemic," said Coe, who was president of the London 2012 organizing committee.

"You have our sympathy with that extra tier of complexity and let me say what we saw in Sapporo was not just the operational delivery on the field of play, but we also saw the operational delivery across many sectors including the COVID protocols," he said. "Many of the athletes were not only accepting, but they felt comforting that TOCOG and Japan were taking this so seriously.’

Tokyo 2020 president Hashimoto Seiko, who met with Coe on Friday, addressed a question from Around the Rings concerning the participation and countermeasures involving the nine international athletes and three officials attending the test event.

"The overseas athletes will go through a test when they come into Japan and there will be restrictions on mobility," Hashimoto said. "They will use dedicated buses to move around so they do not have freedom to move around by themselves.

"President Coe will observe this test event and we will coordinate with him, so from his perspective there will be areas to improve or other advice that we can receive, so this is a precious opportunity to receive such advice," said the Tokyo 2020 leader.

According to Tokyo 2020 officials, the overseas athletes will come from Kenya, Indonesia, USA, Great Britain, Chinese Taipei, Qatar, Australia and Brazil.

Hashimoto also addressed the absence of spectators at Sunday’s event.

"The spectators will not be there, however we will conduct such simulations of the flow of spectators, and the athletes, stakeholders and spectators, we will review and create bubbles for them," she said, regarding potential future plans for the Games.

"We will reconfirm such logistics, so from that perspective, it is a very important event.

"Even without spectators, the medical services to the staff members will need to be prepared thoroughly. At minimum, we need a certain level of medical staff and resources.

Hashimoto once again noted that a final decision about the feasibility of spectators at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics may not come until the end of June.

"We need to take a medical and scientific view to decide upon the number of spectators by the end of June," she said.

Advice on Tokyo 2020’s Legacy

During her meeting with Coe and World Athletics chief executive officer Jon Ridgeon on Friday, Hashimoto says she and Coe talked of their common experience as former Olympians. The British Olympic champion and London 2012 boss offered advice on presiding over an Olympic Games.

"We discussed about the development of the city itself and creating a legacy from the Games – we had a quite a rich exchange on that topic," Hashimoto said.

"He also discussed when the Games are over, how the wonderfulness of the Games can be left as a legacy.

"The Olympic Stadium is the main stadium for the Athletics, so how can we create an Athletics sports legacy, that was also part of the advice he gave us."

On your marks...

Nearly 20 men’s and women’s events will take place on the track and in the field at Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium during Sunday’s meeting. The meet will be divided into morning and evening sessions: 10:15 – 13:15 and 17:20 – 20:35.

Two of Japan’s four Rio 2016 silver-medal winning relay team members will line up for the men’s 100 meters – Cambridge Asuka and Kiryu Yoshihide have both clocked sub-10 second personal bests in the event.

Another of the Rio silver medalists, Lizuka Shota, will start as the favorite in the men’s 200m, having clocked a season and personal best of 20.47.

On the women’s side, one to watch is 21-year-old Japanese 1500-meter runner Nozomi Tanaka. The young talent has posted a season and personal best of 4:05.27.

Written and reported by Brian Pinelli

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