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Restrictions will make Tokyo the most challenging Games ever for athletes - Olympic Federation of Ireland chief

Peter Sherrard says the measures are about trying to minimise risk for those travelling to Japan.

Olympic Federation of Ireland CEO Peter Sherrard.
Olympic Federation of Ireland CEO Peter Sherrard.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

THE TOKYO OLYMPICS will be a very different experience for athletes due to strict Covid-19 measures. 

This year’s Games, which were originally due to be held in 2020, are set to go ahead from 23 July, but there will be a long list restrictions in place for health and safety reasons. 

Ireland currently has 58 athletes qualified, but Olympic Federation of Ireland chief executive Peter Sherrard expects that to rise to somewhere between 80 to 100 — which would make it the largest-ever team to travel from this country. 

Speaking on RTÉ Radio 1′s Morning Ireland, Sherrard outlined the challenges facing athletes, coaches and support staff. 

“There is quite a detailed set of guidelines about the operational procedures in place for the athletes and staff travelling to the games,” he said. 

“There are some obvious things that we’ve known about for a while such as limited access to the village and daily PCR testing.

“We know that all athletes, support staff and coaching staff who are planning to travel will have to get two negative two PCR tests in the 96-hour window prior to departure.

“They will have to provide very detailed information about their whereabouts for 14 days prior to departure and for 14 days after arrival in Japan.

“There are other things in the document such as the Covid contact tracing app, which will be used at the Games, and also information about dining in-room, which we would welcome as it would limit exposure to other athletes within the bubble.

We’re doing this on a medically-led basis and it’s about trying to minimise risk at all stages.

“Within the athletes’ village, there will effectively be a bubble operating but we know that even with the best will in the world, because of the numbers involved , statistically there will be some presence of the disease within that setting.

“It’s a question of trying to be as prepared as possible to minimise the possibility of that spreading, and that will involve bubbles even within our own team. That is a pity as it will alter the athlete experience in some way, but it’s better that it goes ahead for everyone’s sake as the athletes have been working so hard to reach the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Sherrard added: “It’s been a big challenge and a big test of people’s resilience but I think the athletes have really shone through in that environment.

“Part of an athlete’s DNA is that resilience. There are countless failures and it is their ability to pick themselves up and that obsessive nature in terms of wanting to continue to improve.

As I said before, it will be the most challenging Olympic Games that we have ever competed in. It comes with a very different type of environment and there is a different duty of care on our part to look after the health and safety of the athletes as best we can.”

While no international fans will be permitted to attend, a decision on Japanese supporters will be made in June but there is a chance that the Games could yet be staged behind closed doors. 

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Despite a resurgence of coronavirus cases in Japan as the ‘Golden Week’ national holidays begin, organisers are confident that the Olympics and Paralympics will go ahead, however. 

“Every single piece of information, both logistically and from a performance point of view, that we are receiving from the IOC and from the Tokyo organisers is that the Games are very much going ahead,” said Sherrard. 

“I accept that there is a slight degree of risk but it is highly improbable [further postponement] at this point, based on everything that we’re hearing and seeing.”

Listen to the full Morning Ireland interview here 

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