Fans at Tokyo Olympics may be asked to refrain from loud cheering

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TOKYO — Next year’s re-scheduled Tokyo Olympics will be like no other, particularly for non-Japanese fans if they are allowed to enter in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tokyo organizing committee CEO Toshiro Muto, after a meeting Thursday about infection countermeasures, confirmed for the first time that a limited number of non-Japanese fans may be allowed to attend.

But there will be some stringent guidelines, rule books to follow, and health apps to track fans and monitor the spread of the infection.

“By next spring we will be coming up with measures for all spectators including the non-Japan residents,“ Muto said, speaking in Japanese in an online briefing. “For the non-Japanese, we need to be sure we secure a spectating opportunity for them as well.”

Initially, Muto said it would be difficult to subject entering fans to a quarantine, and then suggested later it might happen.

“Regarding spectators from overseas, whether they need to go through a 14-day quarantine or not, whether we can waive that or not will depend on the situation,” Muto said. “There is a possibility this quarantine is waived if they meet certain conditions.”

Organizers and the International Olympic Committee have given themselves at least five more months — into the northern hemisphere spring — to start finalizing how they will pull off the Olympics for 11,000 athletes and tens of thousands of officials, judges, sponsors, media and broadcasters.

It was in early spring this year that the Games were postponed, unable to see a way forward and now set to open on July 23, 2021.

“The spectators’ anxiety of not knowing if they can actually go to the Games or not is understandable,” Muto said. “We would like to be considerate of the spectators as much as possible while we take preventive measures at the same time to be able to accommodate as many spectators as possible.”

IOC President Thomas Bach confirmed on Wednesday in a briefing in Switzerland that he will be in Tokyo next week, his first visit since the Olympics were postponed. Bach gave a firm “no” response when asked if a contingency for canceling the Olympics would be discussed in Tokyo.

Bach is expected to meet new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, and talk with Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, Tokyo organizing committee President Yoshiro Mori, and others linked to the Olympics.

Muto was asked if foreigners visiting Japan would follow the rules. Japan has been largely successful controlling with virus with just over 1,800 deaths reported.

“I think it’s difficult to control their movement and behavior,” a Japanese reporter said, speaking in Japanese.

Muto acknowledged the problem. Nearly everyone in Japan wears a mask — nearly everywhere.

“After the entry into Japan, we can’t follow the spectators and general consumers like we do athletes, so what should be we do?” Muto said. “We need to make sure the screening in sufficient before they enter into the country. That’s a key point.”

He said organizers would come up with ways to track in coming fans, suggesting a call center and other measures. He also pointed that the routes between underground stations and a nearby venues would be monitored with rules to follow.

“For spectators, once they enter into Japan there is a limit what we can do,” Muto said.

Muto said there was no decision yet on the number of fans allowed into venues. Several baseball stadiums in Japan have experimented with fan capacity at 80 percent.

“Whether we are going to have full capacity or not, the decision has not been made yet because various experiments are taking place,” Muto said.

He did caution they might be quiet venues.

Guidelines against fan screaming have been used at baseball, gymnastics and soccer events in Japan during the pandemic to reduce the risk of airborne virus spread, according to reports.

“There’s a possibility that we may ask the spectators to refrain from shouting and speaking in a loud voice. But we haven’t reached a conclusion,” he said.

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IOC gives more time to pick 2030 Olympic host, studies rotating Winter Games

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The 2030 Winter Olympic host, expected to be Salt Lake City or Sapporo, Japan, is no longer targeted to be decided before next fall, the IOC said in announcing wider discussions into the future of the Winter Games, including the possibility of rotating the Games within a pool of hosts.

The IOC Future Host Commission was granted more time to study factors, including climate change, that could impact which cities and regions host future Winter Olympics and Paralympics. The 2030 Winter Games host is not expected to be decided before or at an IOC session next September or October.

Hosts have traditionally been chosen by IOC members vote seven years before the Games, though recent reforms allow flexibility on the process and timeline. For example, the 2024 and 2028 Games were awarded to Paris and Los Angeles in a historic double award in 2017. The 2032 Summer Games were awarded to Brisbane last year without a traditional bid race.

Italy hosts the 2026 Winter Games in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo.

There are three interested parties for the 2030 Winter Olympics, the IOC said Tuesday without naming them. Previously, Salt Lake City, Sapporo and Vancouver were confirmed as bids. Then in October, the British Columbia government said it would not support a Vancouver bid, a major setback, though organizers did not say that decision ended the bid. All three cities are attractive as past Winter Games hosts with existing venues.

U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee officials have said Salt Lake City is a likelier candidate for 2034 than 2030, but could step in for 2030 if asked.

The future host commission outlined proposals for future Winter Olympics, which included rotating hosts within a pool of cities or regions and a requirement that hosts have an average minimum temperature below freezing (32 degrees) for snow competition venues at the time of the Games over a 10-year period.

The IOC Executive Board gave the commission more time to study the proposals and other factors impacting winter sports.

The IOC board also discussed and will continue to explore a potential double awarding of the 2030 and 2034 Winter Olympic hosts.

Also Tuesday, the IOC board said that Afghanistan participation in the 2024 Olympics will depend on making progress in safe access to sports for women and young girls in the country.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch urged the IOC to suspend Afghanistan until women and girls can play sport in the country.

In a press release, the IOC board expressed “serious concern and strongly condemned the latest restrictions imposed by the Afghan authorities on women and young girls in Afghanistan, which prevent them from practicing sport in the country.” It urged Afghanistan authorities to “take immediate action at the highest level to reverse such restrictions and ensure safe access to sport for women and young girls.”

The IOC board also announced that North Korea’s National Olympic Committee will be reinstated when its suspension is up at the end of the year.

In September 2021, the IOC banned the North Korean NOC through the end of 2022, including banning a North Korean delegation from participating in the Beijing Winter Games, after it chose not to participate in the Tokyo Games.

North Korea, formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, was the only one of 206 National Olympic Committees to withdraw from Tokyo. The country made its choice in late March 2021, citing a desire “to protect our athletes from the global health crisis caused by the malicious virus infection.”

The IOC said in September 2021 that it “provided reassurances for the holding of safe Games and offered constructive proposals to find an appropriate and tailor-made solution until the very last minute (including the provision of vaccines), which were systematically rejected by the PRK NOC.”

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Olympic champion Justine Dufour-Lapointe leaves moguls for another skiing discipline

Justine Dufour-Lapointe
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Justine Dufour-Lapointe, the 2014 Olympic moguls champion, is leaving the event to compete in freeriding, a non-Olympic skiing discipline.

“After three Olympic cycles and 12 years on the World Cup circuit, I felt that I needed to find a new source of motivation and had to push my limits even more so I can reach my full potential as a skier,” the 28-year-old Montreal native said in a social media video, according to a translation from French. “Today, I am starting a new chapter in my career. … I want to perfect myself in another discipline. I want to connect with the mountain differently. Above all, I want to get out of my comfort zone in a way I’ve never done before.”

Dufour-Lapointe said she will compete on the Freeride World Tour, a series of judged competitions described as:

There‘s a start gate at the summit and a finish gate at the bottom. That’s it. Best run down wins. It truly is that simple. Think skiers and snowboarders choosing impossible-looking lines through cornices and cliff-faces and nasty couloirs. Think progressive: big jumps, mach-speed turns and full-on attack. Think entertaining.

Dufour-Lapointe has retired from moguls skiing, according to a Freeride World Tour press release, though she did not explicitly say that in social media posts Tuesday.

At the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Dufour-Lapointe denied American Hannah Kearney‘s bid to become the first freestyle skier to repeat as Olympic champion. Older sister Chloé took silver in a Canadian one-two.

Dufour-Lapointe also won the world title in 2015, then Olympic silver in 2018 behind Frenchwoman Perrine Laffont.

Chloé announced her retirement in September. A third Dufour-Lapointe Olympic moguls skier, Maxime, retired in 2018.

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