When the Tokyo Olympics begin in July, there will be no socialising, no handshakes and definitely no hugs. Those are the strict rules organisers have imposed on athletes at the coronavirus-postponed Games, outlined in the latest rule book released this week.
However, the glaring mismatch between these social distancing requirements and the decision to provide athletes with 150,000 condoms
has provoked ridicule on social media.
The 33-page “playbook” also warns athletes they could be kicked out of their events if they break strict anti-virus rules. Under the guidelines, athletes will be tested for the virus at least once every four days, and will be barred from competing if they return a confirmed positive test.
Their time in Japan will be “minimised to reduce the risk of infection,” and those staying at the Olympic Village will be expected to “avoid unnecessary forms of physical contact” and to “limit your contact with other people as much as possible”.
Despite the advice, the organisers will distribute condoms at the athletes’ village, a decision seemingly as odds with social distancing measures.
One commenter on the Japan Today web site asked: “Are these supposed to be worn the normal way or pulled over the head for protection against coronavirus?”
Another suggested “safe sex will be maintained by two-metre social distancing while wearing a condom”.
Other posters warned of a repeat of the “Abenomask” fiasco in the early stages of the pandemic, when the government of then-prime minister Shinzo Abe promised to deliver two masks to every citizen to protect them from the coronavirus. Known universally as “Abenomask”, they were roundly condemned for being too small, particularly for foreigners, and not fitting properly.
There will be no quarantine for athletes, and they will still be allowed to attend training camps in Japan before the Games begin, but all movements must be rigorously logged and the use of public transport is subject to permission.
Athletes “must not visit gyms, tourist areas, shops, restaurants or bars” and can only go to “official Games venues and limited additional locations”. They are also advised to wear masks at all times except when they are competing, training, eating, sleeping or outside in open space.
The virus rule books are being released as organisers, Olympic officials and Japan’s government works to build confidence that the Games can go ahead safely despite a surge in infections globally. While vaccinations are recommended for athletes, they will not be a requirement to participate in the Games.
Support for hosting the virus-postponed event remains low in Japan, with around 80 per cent of Japanese backing cancellation or further postponement – something organisers have ruled out.
The roll-out of the virus rules has been overshadowed by a row over sexist comments made by Tokyo 2020 chief Yoshiro Mori, who faces calls to resign after claiming women speak too much in meetings.
So far, he has apologised but declined to step down.
The Games are due to open in Tokyo on July 23.