Sebastian Coe, head of the world governing body in athletics, said a half marathon test held in the northern Japanese city of Sapporo on Wednesday convinced him that the Olympic marathon could be held successfully in the city when the Games open. Tokyo in just under three months.
Spectators were encouraged to stay away from the streets and not watch the race in person. Security officials held signs on the roads that read, “Please refrain from watching the event from here.”
The reduction of competitors from abroad was largely limited to their hotel rooms until they competed or trained. Coe said strict protocol measures against COVID-19 had been followed.
Coe said that “today Sapporo demonstrates the highest level of ability to organize successful” marathons and races.
These events take place outside of Tokyo due to the hot summers of the city.
Coe, considered a possible candidate to head the International Olympic Committee after Thomas Bach, was outwardly laudatory. It will be available on Sunday as Tokyo organizers hold another $ 1.4 billion test event at Tokyo’s new National Stadium.
Organizers in Tokyo have held a series of test events over the past few days and reported several problems. The biggest problem is convincing the Japanese population that the Olympic Games with 11,000 athletes and thousands more should be held in the middle of a pandemic.
In polls, 70-80% in Japan say they do not want the Olympics to take place. This mood has not been mitigated in Tokyo, Osaka and other emergency areas with increasing cases, especially in the more contagious variants.
Only about 2% of Japan’s population is vaccinated against COVID-19. The country reported just over 10,000 coronavirus deaths.
“You can understand the concern,” Coe told a news conference. He tried to reassure by saying that one-fifth of the Olympic athletes are athletes – and that World Athletics can meet the challenge.
Tokyo officially spends $ 15.4 billion to host the Olympics, which is estimated to be twice as much. The IOC continues with the games, in part because 73% of its revenue comes from the sale of broadcasting rights.
Organizers say they are unlikely to decide by June whether fans can attend the Olympic events. Fans from abroad are already banned.
“Everyone, especially the athletes, will be hoping for spectators,” Coe said. “But I think they admit that if that’s not possible, the games will continue and the race will be extremely good.”
He said athletes are used to competing in stadiums where there are no crowds.
Kou, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in the 1,500m, also topped the London 2012 Olympics. He said he did not envy Seiko Hashimoto, chairman of the organizing committee in Tokyo.
“The challenges are great. “I don’t believe any Olympics were organized under more difficult circumstances,” Coe said. These games have a complex complexity that is beyond comprehension. ”