The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is convinced it has considered every possibility to stage “a safe and secure games” for both the people of Japan and those who attend.
But an event at an Iowa skate park shows how easily plans can be thrown awry.
Thirteen-year-old Charlotte Heath from Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula – along with an unnamed teammate and coach – returned positive tests at their final Tokyo qualification event in the US, resulting in the entire Australian team being disqualified and sent into isolation as close contacts.
Charlotte is one of the athletes for whom the IOC believes the show must go on to “make their Olympic dreams come true”, in the words of IOC president Thomas Bach.
How fragile those dreams are in a COVID-19 world.
While some of the skateboarders will remain in the US before travelling to Tokyo, other members of the team are about to travel to Rome for the Street Skateboarding World Championships beginning on May 30.
Meantime, Australia’s women’s 3×3 basketball team was prevented from leaving our shores to attend a qualification event in Italy because they had not obtained exit visas from the Department of Home Affairs.
The paperwork was sorted out within 24 hours, but it points to a bigger question around the IOC’s confidence it can deliver a safe Games in Tokyo when athletes are jetting in and out of some of the most infected countries on the planet.
Anti-Olympic sentiments inside Japan are running high not just in the general population but also amongst professional groups such as business leaders and medical staff.
Bach spoke to an online International Hockey Federation congress over the weekend stating: “We have to make some sacrifices to make this possible.”
On Monday, Japan’s Kyodo News Service reported those comments “could further inflame the growing majority” of locals in favour of cancelling or postponing the Games again.
Claims that up to 80 per cent of athletes and officials residing in the Olympic village will be vaccinated prior to arrival have also been questioned.
The nation that traditionally sends the biggest team to the games is the United States.
The chief executive of the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC), Sarah Hirshland, said that while “we are encouraging” vaccination, “we will not mandate” it.
The LA Times has reported that because of US health privacy laws, USOPC is not keeping track of athletes who may, or may not, have had the vaccine.
Brendan Schwab, chief executive of World Players, which represents 85,000 professional athletes, said Olympic organisers need to do much more before July.
“Vaccination is only one part of the puzzle,” he told RN Breakfast.
“When the games were originally postponed 12 months ago, there were some 865 active cases in Japan against 385,000 globally.
“We now have 70,000 active cases in Japan and some 19 million active cases globally and Japan’s vaccination rate is less than 5 per cent, the lowest amongst all OECD countries.
“What we really do need to see is a combination of vaccinations but, more importantly for the International Olympic Committee, to really embrace this world-class practice in relation to the COVID-19 protocols we saw in the professional sports.
“At this stage, we think they fall short in seven or eight key respects.”
Three of those key areas are testing, which needs to be conducted “at least daily” and more frequently for sports with close body contact, such as boxing and wrestling.
Schwab said contact tracing is key and the self-reporting app to be used in Tokyo falls short, and there are concerns the ventilation at Olympic sites was designed pre-pandemic.
“Ventilation has been one of the major factors in mitigating against the spread of the virus because of it being spread in air-borne ways,” Schwab said.
Athletes are also being asked to sign legal waivers preventing the IOC and Tokyo organisers being held responsible should an athlete become ill.
“The risk needs to be managed, not simply allocated or put on the shoulders of the athletes,” Schwab said.
“There will no doubt be positive tests in and around the Olympic games.
“To try and complete these games with some form of integrity is going to be difficult within the two-week window.
“We were actually very impressed with the work the Indian Premier League put together in order to complete their competitions in terms of COVID-19 protocol, no expense was spared.
“But even in those circumstances, because of the rate of the spread of the virus in India, which is so devastating at the moment, that event ended up being cancelled.
“So we certainly just can’t hope that the games will be conducted successfully.
“The Olympic spirit won’t defeat the pandemic.”
While the IOC and the Tokyo organisers remain upbeat about their chances of hosting a safe games, it is fair to ask whether the overwhelming wishes of the people should be given a higher priority than the dreams of athletes.
It is interesting to contemplate what Australians might think if, in eight weeks’ time, it was our nation expected to celebrate 78,000 athletes, coaches, officials, media and workers gathering to stage the Olympic and Paralympic games.
Luckily, it is not something Brisbane needs to think about until 2032.
Tokyo, unfortunately, no longer has time on its side.