With less than eight weeks to travel to the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, the host city remains under the coronavirus state of emergency and is battling negative publicity at home and abroad. But the organizers have just had good news. The first group of foreign athletes is on the way.
The Australian softball team seem excited to be back on the pitch more than a year after their last game.
Still, the head of the country’s Olympic delegation says athletes know the experience will be far from normal.
Australian Olympic Team Chef de Mission Ian Chesterman said: “We know that there are tremendous efforts by the Japanese government at all levels of government to ensure that the environment in which we are evolving is suitable for organizing the games.
The last time softball was an Olympic sport, Australia fell in love with potential Japanese champions. It was 13 years ago in Beijing.
In a few weeks, they will receive another injection and to prepare for it, they will be training in the town of Ota, in the prefecture of Gunma.
Twenty-three players and a handful of employees make up the first foreign Olympic contingent to land in Japan.
They are all fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, but they will need to have PCR tests every day of their stay in Japan.
Three floors of the hotel where they will be staying have been roped exclusively for the Australian team to ensure minimal contact with other guests.
Athletes will have their own common area for meals and training and will be asked to avoid visiting other floors. They will have to enter and exit through the back door of the hotel.
In fact, they will be asked to refrain from leaving the hotel at all, except visiting the baseball stadium for practice. City officials will buy basic necessities from them.
Ota officials originally wanted to hold a welcoming ceremony, but that won’t happen now. Instead, they can have the chance to speak with local children via the Internet.
The city mayor says half the point of hosting athletes is the opportunity to interact with them, but he still believes it will be a meaningful experience.
Ota Mayor Shimizu Masayoshi said: “I want to embrace and continue the relationship between Australia and the city of Ota. If we can accommodate the team without a problem, it can be proof that others municipalities can do the same. “
Ota is one of 528 municipalities that initially registered to host Olympic delegations. Two weeks ago, 54 of them had either canceled or learned that the teams were no longer coming. The others will follow closely what is happening in Gunma.