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Olympic headache grows for Japan as dozens of host towns cancel training camps

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Kamata Tomoko


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NHK World Correspondent

Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic organizers are adamant that the implementation of strict infection prevention measures will limit coronavirus-related disruptions at this summer’s Games. But at least 54 communities across  are already feeling the effects of the pandemic, as they have been forced to cancel pre-event training camps and cultural programs.


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Yokoshibahikari Town in Chiba Prefecture had agreed to host a delegation of around 10 athletes and officials from the Central American country of Belize, providing accommodation and facilities for a pre-Games training camp. But the local authorities are now focusing on their coronavirus vaccination program and say they can no longer allocate the time and resources needed for the camp.

Town officials say the issues stem from the central government’s revised anti-coronavirus infection guidelines released last month. Host towns are now responsible for the health and safety of visiting delegates. But the officials say they have no way to meet those requirements as Yokoshibahikari’s only hospital does not accept coronavirus patients. They also say they do not have the means to make sure the visitors limit their movement to accepted areas.


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“Implementing the necessary anti-coronavirus measures was too high a hurdle for our town,” says Yokoshibahikari Mayor Sato Haruhiko. “If the athletes were to get infected during training camp, we would feel a tremendous sense of guilt toward the people of Belize.”

Yokoshibahikari isn’t the only community facing these problems. Across , 528 municipalities had registered as host towns for visiting delegations. So far, 54 of them have cancelled Olympic- and Paralympic-related pre-event camps and cultural events.


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In more than 80 percent of these cases, the participating teams pulled out due to concerns about infection risks and delays in the qualification process. But many municipalities, like Yokoshibahikari, have cancelled the plans themselves, citing a lack of resources to implement the preventive measures requested by the central government. Others say they no longer have access to the needed facilities, as venues previously designated for the training camps have been converted into vaccination sites.

 sociology expert Sasao Shinta of the Tokyo Women’s College of Physical Education says these host town programs are important to upholding the Olympic principles.

“One of the goals is fostering world peace,” he says. “The host town initiative is a wonderful part of this project, so losing the opportunity to have such exchanges would be regrettable.”

Nonetheless, Sasao believes more communities will follow suit, and impact venues. And he says these cancellations will affect not only the spirit of the Games, but the quality.

“The training camps are crucial for athletes to fine-tune their physical condition and acclimate to the setting,” Sasao says. “If the camps are cancelled, athletes from countries closer to , where there is a smaller time difference, would have an advantage.”

Despite the cancellations, Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide remains firmly committed to the Games, saying strict anti-virus measures will ensure a safe competitive environment.

“The government is reviewing the number of foreign visitors, which is likely to be reduced further from the current estimate,” Suga told reporters last Friday. “Their moves will be restricted and we are considering steps to expel visitors who don’t comply with these rules.”

Suga also revealed that the International Olympic Committee had struck a deal with Pfizer to provide vaccines for all participants.

Organizing officials say they expect fewer than 90,000 foreign officials and journalists in Tokyo for this summer’s Games. This is half the original estimate made before the pandemic.

 
 

 


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What Deontay Wilder’s Arbitration Ruling Means for Anthony Joshua vs. Tyson Fury

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Leicester boss Rodgers happy bringing through teen prospect Tawanda Maswanhise

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Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers is happy bringing through 18 year-old prospect Tawanda Maswanhise.


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Rodgers included the 18-year-old in his matchday squad for the win at Manchester United to give him an idea of what’s required to be a Premier League player.

Maswanhise has athletic pedigree as the son of a former sprinter, Jeffrey Maswanhise representing Zimbabwe in the 400m at the 1998 and 2002 Commonwealth Games.


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“He’s a young player I like,” Rodgers said of the 18-year-old. “I’ve seen him playing for the Under-18s. He’s quick, he’s direct. He’s got a lot of strengths and he’s got a lot of potential, but a lot of work to do.

“Bringing in young players, like we’ve done with Luke before, it gives them the experience.


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“To feel the preparation, to sit on the bench, to see the quality of the players, it gives him a flavour of the level and preparation he needs to be here. That was the idea.”


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Lewis Hamilton says Formula 1 is a ‘billionaire boys’ club’

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Lewis Hamilton says Formula 1 has become a “billionaire boys’ club”.


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The seven-time champion told Spain’s AS newspaper it would not be possible for him to break into the sport from his background if he tried to do so now.

“Growing up in a normal working class family, there is no way I could be here – the guys you are fighting against have that much more money,” he said.


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“We have to work to change that to make it more accessible, for the rich and for people with more humble origins.”

The Mercedes driver was raised on a council estate in Stevenage in Hertfordshire, while his father Anthony worked several jobs to fund his junior career before he was picked up by McLaren and Mercedes aged 13.


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They funded the rest of his career as he made his way through the ranks to F1.

Of the current grid, Canadians Lance Stroll, Nicholas Latifi and Russian Nikita Mazepin, who have all joined F1 in recent years, are the sons of billionaires.

And both Max Verstappen, Hamilton’s title rival this year, and Mick Schumacher, who made his debut in 2021, are the sons of former F1 drivers.

Hamilton and Mercedes have set up a foundation to try to attract more people from an ethic minority background into motorsport, and he has set up commission to look into why minorities are under-represented.


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