Lyna Mohammad in Tokyo, Japan
The current epidemic of the coronavirus will not affect the organising of the upcoming Tokyo Olympics 2020 which will run as per schedule.
Project Director of Press Relations for the Organising Committee of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games 2020 Makino Michiko said this during an interview with the visiting ASEAN Journalist Group under the Foreign Press Invitation by Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
She said that it is not only about the coronavirus but also the possibility of many different viruses affecting the games and due to this the organising committee of 2020 is collaborating with relevant organisations.
“At the moment we are not concerned with any possibility of stopping the games or having to convince the audience about coming here because, for one thing, we still have over six months before the opening, so it is very possible the coronavirus will be contained by then and we are confident we can implement enough counter measures,” said Makino.
One of the event venues will be in Fukushima, where an earthquake happened in 2011. Asked about the issues regarding safety concerns on radiation following the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant, the project director responded that it has already been nine years since the great east Japan earthquake incident and they have confirmed the radiation level in Fukushima Prefecture is no different from the levels of other major cities in and out of Japan.
Workers at the power plant are already able to work in 96 per cent of the compound without the special protective clothing, it was shared.
The torch relay starts on March 26 and the starting point will be a football village called the J Village as well as the stadium for baseball and softball in Fukushima.
The torch will also pass through other affected areas of the 2011 incident, and most of the north eastern part of Japan will be covered.
The first sport in the Olympics will be the women’s softball preliminary round that will be held two days before the opening ceremony and will take place in Fukushima Azuma Stadium in Fukushima Prefecture.
This, Makino added, is intended is to show Fukushima is now safe and also to show gratitude on the many assistance from all over the world in the aftermath of the 2011 disaster.
With the Games’ vision, ‘Sport has the power to change the world and our future’, the message they want to convey is the value of sports that goes beyond the sports.
“We say this because from our experience in 2011 many famous athletes went over to devastated areas and did some volunteer support works for the people.
“Throughout the games, starting from the early day of the torch until the start of the game, we are going to publicise that Fukushima is getting revitalised.”
This much anticipated world games will also see the participation of Muslim athletes, hence matters on Halal food are also given attention.
Halal food will be prepared at the athlete village, however categories of the Halal food are yet to be looked into.
One of the main concerns at major sporting events is also on security. Makino reassured that the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee is working closely with the Government of Japan to implement counter measures, not just against viruses but also terrorism.
One of the security systems to be implemented at the games will be face recognition where this system allows athletes, staff as well as members of media to go into venues without using some form of a card but just by showing their face to the device, which ensures and reinforce the security at the venue.
“In addition, we will be deploying over 15,000 security personnel comprising personnel from both private and the police for the Olympic and Paralympic games,” said Makino.
Other than that, the Tokyo 2020 Games gives an opportunity for Japan, its capital city and for the Japanese business community to amaze the world in areas of technology used during the games such as the Robot Project, which is aimed at ensuring the games will be the most innovative ever and provide visitors with an unforgettable experience.
This project developed by the Toyota Motor Corporation features a robot escorting wheelchair-using spectators at the Olympic stadium and assisting them by carrying food and other goods, guiding people to their seats and providing event information.
Another technology that Japan will take pride in using at the event is the Power Assist Suites, developed by Panasonic Corporation, which can transport and unload heavy objects, providing a healthier and safer working environment.
“There are more technologies in the pipeline and we plan to reveal more in spring this year,” she added.
In terms of expenditure, the organising committee has income in the form of sponsorship from their partners with the latest estimated total expenditure being 1.35 trillion Japanese Yen, which is the combined expenditure of the organising committee, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the Government of Japan.
In addressing one of the biggest challenges for the upcoming games – heat and humidity – the organising committee is preparing counter measures separately for athletes, audience and staff.
“We are consulting international federations of various sports for athletes. One example is setting up air-conditioning for lounges in some sports, and consulting on how to bring drinks and ice to athletes and providing staff and volunteers training on how to stay safe in the weather conditions.”
Makino pointed out that they will provide spectators fine-tuned heat and humidity counter measures depending on the different circumstances of some venues, with temporary tents or pre-fabricated structures to provide shade.
Transportation is another challenge to be tackled. The population in Tokyo metropolitan area is 11 million and if expanded to the greater metropolitan area there is a population of 30 million.
“During the games we have to put some control over public transport. There are different ways to control it. One is to encourage telework (work from home). We will also have more train and bus services in the evening, encourage athletes to commute by bus provided that will run on a special lane, but some will still opt for public transport.”
The organising committee has also overseen ticket sales outside of Japan by assigning the responsibility to a company called ATR, which will be responsible for selling games tickets through its official website in different countries and the special feature on the tickets will prevent black market.
Makino also highlighted that they will try to use as many existing facilities as possible for the event.
While 35 out of the 43 venues are existing facilities, eight are new venues including the Athletes Village as well as temporary facilities, which will be torn down after the games.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government have plans to utilise the new facilities after the event, with the Athletes Village to be put up on sale to the public as a residential condominium.
The new national stadium on the other hand will be used not only for sporting events but also entertainment. Currently, Tokyo 2020 has a workforce of 3,000 people and another 5,000 temporary staff coming in once the games start and a huge number of volunteers of 110,000 people – 80,000 picked by the organising committee and the remaining by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government both for Olympic and Paralympic games.
“The preparation is very well on course and by mid-February all venues will be ready,” concluded Makino.