Athletes’ village reopens with 1 week to go to Tokyo Paralympics – The Foreigners magazine In tokyo
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Athletes’ village reopens with 1 week to go to Tokyo Paralympics

Written by on August 17, 2021

The Tokyo Games athletes’ village reopened Tuesday a week before the start of the Paralympics as Japan continues to grapple with an alarming rise in coronavirus infections.

The welcoming of the first Paralympic delegations to the 44-hectare village in Tokyo’s Harumi waterfront district came a day after organizers decided to hold competitions behind closed doors at all venues as a precaution against the spread of the virus.

As was the case with Olympians, residents at the village will be required to undergo daily COVID-19 testing, wear face masks and observe physical distancing.

The athletes’ village for the Tokyo Paralympics officially opens in Tokyo’s Harumi waterfront district on Aug. 17, 2021. (Kyodo)  

But since some Paralympic athletes may have a higher risk of suffering severe symptoms due to underlying health conditions, the organizers have said they will focus on enhancing safety at the village for the Paralympics.

Similarly to the Olympics, there was no special event to welcome the delegations as they entered the fenced-off complex.

Still, a ceremony was held in Shizuoka Prefecture, which will host cycling events, ahead of the start of the Paralympic torch relay.

During the relay, flames lit in different parts of the country and in Britain’s Stoke Mandeville — the spiritual birthplace of the Paralympic movement — will be merged into one. The Shizuoka event was to combine flames lit in 35 towns and cities in the prefecture.

While the relay was scheduled to take place in Tokyo and the three prefectures where Paralympic venues are located, all segments except in two cities in Shizuoka have been taken off public roads due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Tokyo has been under a COVID-19 state of emergency since July 12. It has reported record numbers of daily infections in recent weeks, with the figure nearly tripling from before the start of the Olympics on July 23.

The Japanese government is set to expand the state of emergency beyond Tokyo and five other areas under which people are advised to stay home as much as possible. The measure currently in place in the capital is also expected to be extended past its Aug. 31 deadline.

“I understand there are different challenges with Paralympians compared to Olympians,” Toshiro Muto, CEO of the organizing committee, told a press conference on Monday. “We will make our utmost efforts so the Paralympians do not get infected with the virus.”

The athletes’ village for the Tokyo Paralympics officially opens in Tokyo’s Harumi waterfront district on Aug. 17, 2021. (Kyodo)  

As with the Olympics that ended Aug. 8, there is also concern over the impact of holding the Paralympics, the world’s largest sporting event for athletes with disabilities, on Japan’s efforts to restrain its virus resurgence.

International Paralympic Committee chief Andrew Parsons and representatives of three Japanese organizing bodies on Monday agreed to bar spectators at all venues, which are located in Tokyo and the prefectures of Chiba, Saitama and Shizuoka.

As an exception, students of local schools taking part in a government-backed educational program will be allowed to watch competitions in person.

Seiko Hashimoto, president of the organizing committee, has said she is “convinced” that it is possible to safely stage the Paralympics by putting in place measures based on the experience gained in hosting the Olympics.

However, the organizers have said they have no information on how many Paralympians have been vaccinated for the virus, adding that some athletes choose not to receive the shots due to their health conditions.

In the village, residents are required to limit their stays to a minimum by checking in seven days before they compete and leaving within two days of the end of their events, in principle. It will close on Sept. 8, three days after the closing ceremony.

The village houses 21 residential buildings with some 8,000 beds made of cardboard and features various facilities including dining halls, a fitness center and a recreation area.

It contains a fever clinic, where polymerase chain reaction tests can be conducted for suspected COVID-19 patients.

To assist Paralympians, the village includes a facility where technicians provide repairs and maintenance services for prosthetics, wheelchairs and other equipment.

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