August 12, 2022

Japan travel bans won’t be a problem for athletes, IOA says

Even as Japan imposed a strict travel ban from India, while extending the state of emergency to more cities in the country just over two months before the Tokyo Olympics, the president of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) Narinder Batra said on Friday that no Indian athlete, support staff or officials traveling to Tokyo would be impacted.

The Japanese government has closed its borders to those traveling from India, Nepal or Pakistan to prevent the new variant of the virus from inflicting further damage in a country struggling with a new wave of Covid-19 cases . The travel ban went into effect from Friday, with the country’s cabinet secretary general Katsunobu Kato saying they “will tighten and ease entry restrictions depending on the situation.”

But Batra said that even if the travel ban from India is extended until June or July, the Indian contingent to Tokyo could travel for the Games which are slated to open on July 23.

“This ban concerns the general public coming from India, Pakistan or Nepal. For athletes participating in the Olympic Games, there are sufficient guarantees taken by the IOC (International Olympic Committee) of the host nation that they cannot prevent any country from entering. There cannot be separate rules specific to each country, ”said Batra.

“As such, all athletes, coaches and accredited officials from India will have no problem entering Japan, rest assured. We will just have to follow the standard protocols that have been put in place, such as passing the mandatory RT-PCR tests before flying, ”he said.

When asked if the IOA would consider the possibility of transporting the contingent to Tokyo from another country if the India travel ban continues until July, Batra said: “It is only if a situation arises where they (the Japanese government) say you can’t travel from India. It won’t. However, every country has a back-up plan and we will have one too. In any case, some of our athletes are already training abroad, so they will fly directly to Tokyo.

The move comes amid new concerns over the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics in Japan, which has seen an increase in Covid-19 cases. According to the World Health Organization website, Japan reported 6,927 cases on May 13, a jump from around 2,500 exactly one month ago.

On Friday, the Japanese government extended its state of emergency, already in force in major cities such as Tokyo, Osaka and four other prefectures, to three other prefectures of Hokkaido, Hiroshima and Okayama until May 31. Hokkaido, one of the country’s northernmost islands, is expected to host the Olympic marathon. According to Reuters, the latest emergency measures will put 19 of the country’s 47 prefectures under strict restrictions.

In Japan, voices against staging the world’s greatest sporting spectacle while battling the pandemic continued to rise. An online petition, with more than 350,000 signatures, called for the Games to be suspended. The campaign, titled “Stop Tokyo Olympics” and written by renowned Japanese lawyer Kenji Utsunomiya, was submitted to local organizers and the IOC on Friday.

“We are not in this situation and therefore the Games should be canceled,” Utsunomiya said at a press conference. “Valuable medical resources should be diverted to the Olympics if they take place.”

The IOC and the local organizing committee, however, have maintained their intention to make the Games a “beacon of hope”, with Tokyo also hosting test events in various disciplines over the past month, albeit in front of empty screens. stands.

The IOA, however, does not want Indian athletes to be confused about the organization of the Games. “I wouldn’t want to comment on country specific issues; these are their personal and political problems. But as far as I know, the Olympics are taking place. I would like to say this directly to our athletes, ”said Batra.

With Japan joining a growing list of foreign countries banning travel from India, battling a massive second wave, many athletes find it increasingly difficult to travel abroad for their final phase of preparation . Some athletes who have already taken the plane – like the Indian shooting contingent which moved to Croatia earlier this week – or who are expected to do so in the days and weeks to come, are required to submit to quarantine rules specific to their country.

“Look, the facilities in India are good enough for training,” Batra said. “So to say that I couldn’t train properly because I couldn’t go abroad would be unfair to the facilities provided in our country. We have provided all possible support to our athletes, whether it is helping to build a shooting range inside personal houses or sending the archers to Pune for training. The hockey teams also trained in Bengaluru. Yes, traveling abroad can be a problem right now, but the rules apply to many other countries and not just India.

The IOA president added that around 200 Indian athletes bound for Tokyo, including Paralympians, and some 90 officials have so far received their first dose of vaccination. “About 18 athletes also got their second jab,” he said.

(With contributions from the agency)