LONDON (Reuters) – The Olympics may continue, but much of the celebration and connection that normally makes hosting the Games so memorable is being cut as nearly 50 cities have lost their role as host or base of training camp.
More than 70% of these were canceled by visiting delegations fearing the risks and restrictions of COVID-19 amid the low number of vaccinations in Japan, reducing the Games to a Tokyo bubble.
The largest of these was the United States track and field team, with more than 100 athletes due to complete their preparations in Chiba Prefecture, near Tokyo, but canceled the camp in early May and advised the athletes to polish themselves at home. .
Nearly 80 Russians were due to train in Nagara and 42 more in Kamo but were canceled, while the New Zealand swimmers moved their preparation site from Kobe to the Olympic Village.
The town of Takanezawa was supposed to host a multisport delegation from Lesotho but had to cancel because its gyms were converted into COVID-19 vaccination centers.
Urayasu’s welcome of 35 British Paralympians has been canceled – they will now travel directly to the Athletes’ Village – but the rest of the planned British delegations continue.
“We have no problem with our training camps before the Games in Yokohama and Kawasaki,” a spokesperson for the British Olympic Association told Reuters. “There are a few very small groups of athletes in one or two other places but 99% of our athletes are in Yokohama and Kawasaki. Nothing has changed, we are all still where we were.”
It is not only the training camps that have been canceled, but also several of the sites involved in the ‘host city’ initiative, where cities adopt a visiting delegation, often developing cultural ties that last for years beyond. games.
The cancellations have been a source of regret and resignation for those in Japan who have spent a lot of time and money preparing their now absent guests.
“Each local government has an individual relationship with the respective Olympic delegations, so they would have made it clear as part of the ongoing negotiations that certain coronavirus countermeasures are in place and that the delegations should follow them,” said the director. from the government’s Tokyo 2020 Games promotion office told Reuters.
“There is still a lot of unknowns about the coronavirus, and there is the indisputable fact that there is some risk associated with travel. In that sense, it is really a shame that some delegations have taken the decision to cancel their training camps either enter Japan later than planned or head straight to the Olympic Village. “
With the Games limited by supporters already unable to match their predecessors in terms of atmosphere, and with family and friends unable to accompany foreign athletes, any chance of improving the Olympic experience is seized with both hands by those who are still heading for the camps.
American softball pitcher Cat Osterman, who won Olympic gold in 2004 and silver in 2008, said she was excited her team was pursuing plans to prepare in Japan.
“We will be training at a military base – Iwakuni – that we have trained in before, so the plan is to get there in early July and train there until we can move into the village,” the said. 38-year-old to Reuters. .
“It’s great that we can get there early and have a place where we can adjust to the time change, adapt to the weather and even be able to hopefully play games against some of the pro teams. there to just get on and really get into the competitive spirit before the Games start. So we are very fortunate to have this opportunity. “
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, additional reporting by Amy Tennery, Steve Keating, Alan Baldwin, Sakura Murakami, Eimi Yamamitsu, editing by Angus MacSwan)
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