THE TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO Olympic Committee (TTOC) will now refocus its effort on complying with strict safety and biosecurity protocols for the Tokyo2020 Olympic Games after its planned pre-Games camp in Osaki Town was cancelled Tuesday.
At a Zoom-hosted media briefing to give an update on Team TTO’s Covid-19 counter-measures for the July 23-August 8 Games, TTOC president Brian Lewis said the Team TTO management group had pivoted from the pre-Games camp to now emphasising compliance with the “very strict and intense” guidelines required by the Japan government, the Tokyo2020 Organising Committee (TOC), the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
With 39 days until the opening ceremony, the IOC is set to publish the third update of its Playbook — the strict safety and health guidelines and counter-measures designed to ensure the safe staging of the Games — later in June. Lewis said the IOC had also advised National Olympic Committees (NOCs) that the Games, rescheduled from the summer of 2020, are still on.
In a May 21 webinar meeting with the authorities in the Osaki township, the city in the Kagoshima prefecture had re-committed to staging the pre-Games camp for Team TTO.
However, Osaki News organisation Nikkei Asia reported Tuesday that “Osaki-cho in Kagoshima prefecture announces that it cancelled pre-games training camps for athletes from Taiwan and Trinidad and Tobago due to the Covid situation.”
“They now believe it is in the best interest of Osaki and Team TTO, purely on the basis of the bio-secure environment and the absolute safety of the Team TTO delegation and the people of Osaki town, that the pre-Games training camp be cancelled,” said Lewis. He added that the TTOC was appreciative of Osaki embracing the concern and focus of Team TTO.
In a display of goodwill and good faith, Lewis said the TTOC had proposed — and the Osaki authorities had accepted — continued collaboration with the Japanese township, including the participation of their town’s schools, children and youth in the TTOC’s Olympic Day (June 23) and Olympic Youth Camp activities and events. These will be facilitated and hosted on a digital platform.
Back on the issue of Covid-19, Lewis said the TTOC had a responsibility for the health and safety of the Team TTO delegation which was “paramount and non-negotiable”.
He said the TTOC also had to consider the concerns and safety of the Japan people, with this country currently being red-flagged as a high-risk Covid-19 nation internationally.
To that end, the TTOC had taken a series of decisions to attempt to pacify those concerns, including re-purposing their focus on enhanced Covid-19 counter-measures. These measures include the execution of three PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests — one at 14 days out from departure and two additional tests within 96 hours prior to arrival in Japan by the TTO delegation.
The TTOC will also subject its delegation to daily rapid saliva antigen testing for the Covid-19 disease; PCR test applications that will monitor delegation members’ movements; observing restrictions to avoid utilising public transport while in Japan and adhering to the limitations of the bio-secure bubble as imposed by the IOC.
“We must be seen as doing our part,” Lewis emphasised, adding that any breach of the Playbook guidelines could lead to the withdrawal of accreditation and expulsion from the Village and Japan.
Lewis added that the TTOC had total confidence in the measures being undertaken by authorities surrounding the Games
The TTOC will now push for 100 per cent vaccination of the Team TTO delegation although the IOC currently does not mandate that athletes be inoculated. IOC president Thomas Bach had indicated last month that he expected the population of the Games Village (including 11,000 athletes and thousands of officials) to be 80 per cent vaccinated.
Team TTO’s delegation, with chef de mission Lovie Santana at the helm, is also supervising the logistics — with support from Panam Sports — for travel to and from Japan, including a 14-day quarantine period if required on the return to T&T or to be served in possibly Miami if return flights become an issue.
Santana indicated that the complete TTO team would be named and identified between the period from the end of June to July, after the TTOC Council meets to ratify the squad.
Despite the cancellation of the pre-games camp and the IOC restriction that athletes are allowed to arrive only five days before the start of their discipline and are obligated to leave 48 hours after the completion of their competition, Team TTO is applying for an exemption for the track and field delegation to arrive in Japan on July 21, nine days before their meet starts.