Team GB Mission chef Mark England said on Wednesday that he was confident that the Tokyo Olympics would go ahead this year, but that athletes could expect them to be very different due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Games, delayed from 2020 due to the new coronavirus, are scheduled for July 23 to August 8, but Japan has expanded the state of emergency in the Tokyo area with COVID-19 cases steadily increasing.
“We are very confident that the Games will take place in the summer,” England told Reuters after announcing the selection of shooting hopefuls Kirsty Hegarty, Matt Coward-Holley, Aaron Heading and Seonaid McIntosh.
“We certainly wouldn’t be advertising athletes if that wasn’t the case.”
England, which is part of a working group of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said there would be some “obvious pressure points”, but that “incredibly comprehensive” health and safety protocols would protect athletes.
A weekend poll by Japanese public broadcaster NHK showed that most locals want to cancel or postpone the Games.
Takeshi Niinami, chief executive of beverage giant Suntory Holdings and an economic adviser to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, told Reuters he was not sure the Olympics could be held as planned.
England said they based their confidence on much more than just “a vibe.”
“The prime minister of Japan has commented overnight that the Games will go ahead, the IOC is very confident in his planning for the Games to go ahead,” he said.
“There is nothing we are hearing today to suggest that the Games will not take place. We are on full blast, we plan to embark in Japan from mid-July and that is our focus of attention. “
Team GB finished second in the medal table behind the United States at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro and expect even more loot in Tokyo.
England did not expect athletes to have to self-quarantine upon arrival. Instead, they would have COVID-19 tests prior to departure and upon arrival and then go directly to a prep camp in Yokohama.
When asked about the protocols and social distancing at events, he said competitors could expect to spend less time in town or attend other events.
“We are considering proposals that would suggest that athletes would only arrive … five to seven days before the competition begins, which is a change from protocol in previous games, and will be encouraged to leave the Olympic environment for up to 48 hours after. from the competition, “he said.
“So very, very different Games. Games in which we will not necessarily see athletes supporting their teammates as we have seen in the past.
“But everyone is prepared to work with those (protocols) to ensure that for athletes in competition it is the safest possible environment in which we can prepare for them.”
England said Team GB planned to bring 375-380 athletes to Tokyo, with more women than men for the first time, as well as support staff.
“What we do know at this stage is that there is absolutely no impact on the number of support personnel that the National Olympic Committees can take on,” he added. “There is no reduction in accredited support staff for the sports fraternity.
“I think what we will see is an encouragement for the delegation at large, some of our stakeholders and partners, to be discouraged from attending.
“It is quite possible that the environment, by not being able to enter the Olympic village or the restrictions around that, prevent their attendance anyway.”