After a year’s extension, the 2020 Summer Olympic Games are finally going ahead today (23 July 2021) with the final events taking place on Sunday, 8 August 2021 – having originally been planned for 24 July to 9 August 2020.
The Paralympic Games will then run from Tuesday, 24 August 2021 to Sunday, 5 September.
This will be the second time that Tokyo is playing host to the Summer Olympics, having hosted in 1964 – and here are some of the ways the 2021 edition will differ from previous contests.
1. Covid rules
As with every other global event, Covid-19 has made itself felt, impacting everything from planned dates to competitors, with the likes of Coco Gauff, Roger Federer and Serena Williams pulling out of the tennis event alone.
The majority of Japanese residents have also called for the 2021 version to be cancelled, but the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said it will go ahead despite concerns.
Covid-19 protocol: All international athletes and support staff have been tested both before departure and upon arrival in Japan, with a small number of athletes having tested positive, including members from South Africa’s football team.
Although an anticipated 80% of athletes have been vaccinated (this is not a mandatory requirement, however), they will still be required to wear masks unless eating or competing, with social distancing in place.
Olympic Village: Athletes will only be allowed to visit official Olympic venues, their living areas or pre-approved locations.
Every time they enter the Olympic Village, their temperature will be taken, and they will be required to eat meals six feet from others.
Common areas will be ventilated every 30 minutes, and there’s a designated Covid-19 clinic on site.
One of the biggest selling points for many host nations is the spectators.
This draws in massive revenue in the form of tourism, and while there was some hope that the pandemic would be in control by now, this is certainly not the case.
So, from originally planning on full stadiums through to limited capacity through to only 10 000 Japanese fans attending, Japan has had to announce a State of Emergency with zero spectators allowed to attend.
3. Sporting events
This year’s Summer Olympics will include 33 sports across 339 events at 42 venues, with some 11 500 athletes competing in a gender split of 51% male – 49% female.
The Paralympics will feature 22 sports across 539 events at 21 venues. Most of the major events will be competed in the greater Tokyo area, with some football games and the marathon being hosted in the northern city of Sapporo.
One of the biggest changes in 2021 is the addition of five new sports, including the return of baseball (or softball), karate, sport climbing, skateboarding and surfing.
There’s also the introduction of the three-on-three basketball competition, while gymnastics has an adjusted rule whereby a country can’t send a team of five athletes, rather four, all-round contestants with two teammates for individual-only events.
With everything that’s going on, watching the world’s best athletes compete in the globe’s biggest contest from the comfort of home is something we all deserve right now.
Let’s simply bask in the unifying spirit of the Olympic Games!
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