As Japan loses training camps, Olympics buzz fades

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A visitor and the Olympic Rings monument cast shadows on the ground in front of the headquarters of the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) near the National Stadium, the main stadium of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics which has been postponed to 2021 due to illness in coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tokyo, Japan on May 30, 2021. REUTERS / Issei Kato

Ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the Japanese city of Kamo spent 70 million yen ($ 640,000) on horizontal bars, gymnastic mats and other improvements to training facilities for 42 Russian gymnasts and coaches who will no longer come.

The team has abandoned pre-Olympic training plans in Japan due to the resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic, local officials said. Officials in the northwestern city of 25,000 say they regret the lost opportunity to host the team, even more than the money spent.

The Games, now less than eight weeks after being delayed for a year, have been disrupted by COVID-19. Foreign spectators will not be allowed and more than 100 municipalities have canceled their plans to host foreign teams.

“Local children who could be future star gymnasts were disappointed to miss the opportunity to meet Russian gymnasts,” Kamo manager Hirokazu Suzuki told Reuters.

While there is little Olympic buzz in the host city of Tokyo, which is in a state of emergency due to the pandemic, in smaller places like Kamo, who has been planning the camp since 2019, the disappointment may be. be more palpable.

Most of the cancellations to date concern the roughly 500 municipalities involved in the Olympic Games’ host city program, in which foreign teams base their pre-Games training at Japanese facilities.

In some cases, such as the Australian judo team, teams have withdrawn for safety reasons. In others, such as a Cuban delegation that was to stay in the town of Higashimatsuyama north of Tokyo, the municipalities decided not to host.

Organizers say the Games will be safe. Several opinion polls have shown that most Japanese want the event to be canceled or postponed again.

The national government has earmarked 13 billion yen for municipalities to host training camps while imposing coronavirus measures, officials said.

Municipalities outside Tokyo are expected to see an increase of about $ 110 billion by 2030 thanks to the Games, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government said in a March 2017 estimate.

“The training camps will give a huge boost to the economies of the cities where they are held, but this is lost,” said Katsuhiro Miyamoto, professor emeritus of economics at Kansai University who studies the economic impact of the Olympics. .

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Officials in Narita, east of Tokyo, were taken by surprise when the United States track team informed them that they had decided to withdraw from the planned training camp.

About 120 athletes and staff, including star sprinter Justin Gatlin, were expected to come for the camp, said Kentaro Abe, a municipal project manager from the host city.

Narita’s athletic relationship with the United States began in 2015, when she hosted the U.S. training camp ahead of the world track and field championships in Beijing.

“This does not mean that our efforts to promote sports exchanges between Japan and the United States have come to nothing,” Abe told Reuters, adding that the city would seek to continue the relationship.

In downtown Toyota, home of automaker and Olympic sponsor Toyota Motor Corp, Canadian swimmers and coaches pulled out of pre-Olympic training that was scheduled to take place over about three weeks in July.

Such cancellations could exacerbate the pain of cities and regions that are already suffering from a decline in tourism.

At his hotel in the western city of Izumisano, Eriko Tsujino fears he will lose around 60 reservations from the Mongolian and Ugandan national teams if the athletes abandon their training in Japan.

“If they canceled at the last minute it would result in a huge loss,” she told Reuters, saying reservations had still not been confirmed due to the state of emergency.

After the Russians canceled their camp at Kamo, officials decided at the last minute to host a much smaller Portuguese delegation consisting of an artistic gymnast and two accompanying staff, Suzuki said.

But the city has also sought to maintain friendly relations with Russian gymnasts, asking children and other residents to show their support for the creation of video messages and letters.

($ 1 = 109.8100 yen)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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