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HOME  > Past issues  > 2021 February 24 - March 2  > Anti-COVID measures at Australian Open and Tokyo Olympics
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2021 February 24 - March 2 TOP3 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Anti-COVID measures at Australian Open and Tokyo Olympics

February 25, 2021
At the Australian Tennis Open which ended on February 21, there was another battle outside of tennis matches. The opponent was the novel coronavirus. The organizers of the Australian Open took thorough countermeasures against the spread of COVID-19.

Craig Tiley, CEO at Tennis Australia, said in an article the Sports Hochi carried on February 11 that the priority for his organization was "the safety and health of the community as well as all guests from around the world".

Tiley said, “I’ve seen the playbook for the Olympics and I’ve looked at it carefully, and compared to what we’ve done, we’ve had a far more rigorous program than is being proposed for the Olympics.” He especially considers it problematic that the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee will not impose a quarantine period on athletes.

In the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, the number of athletes and their entourage alone will be more than 15 times the number of people at the Grand Slam in Melbourne. Competitions in the Olympics include contact sports which necessarily involve physical contact between athletes. Given these considerations, it will not be easy for the Tokyo Games organizers to handle anti-coronavirus countermeasures fairly and properly.

On the other hand, rigorous quarantine measures may lead to players' injuries. Novak Djokovic was able to train during quarantine and won the men's singles final in the 2021 Australian Open. He, however, suffered from an abdominal injury in the third round. He, in an article published by the Mainichi Shimbun on February 19, mentioned his dissatisfaction with the strict 14-day quarantine in which players had been placed. He said that he took part in the preliminary matches for the Australian Open immediately after completing his quarantine, and that the quarantine restrictions affected his physical condition.

Strict quarantine measures are necessary for safe sporting competitions. At the same time, however, these measures could cause a negative impact on players' physical condition, leading to injuries. It will not be easy for the Tokyo Games organizers to solve this dilemma.

As of February 23, the number of coronavirus-infected people totaled 40 in Australia while around 16,000 people have tested positive in Japan. Australia showed no new COVID-19 case in contrast to hundreds of newly infected people daily in Tokyo alone. Japan obviously has been failing to bring COVID-19 under control.

Shibuya Kenji, expert in public health and professor at King's College London, said in an Akahata telephone interview on February 17, "Looking at the Australian Open, I realize that it will be very difficult for the Olympics to be held in Japan. Japan has been tied up with its response to the third wave of coronavirus infections and is not in a position to hold the Games. I think the need now is for Japan to protect people's lives, provide medical services, and do everything it can to contain the COVID-19 pandemic."
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