The postponed Tokyo Olympics are getting a kick-start. Local organizers on Friday announced a series of 18 test events set to begin in March and run into May, before the Tokyo Olympics are set to open on July 23, 2021, reports the AP. The announcement in an online news conference came the same day that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government reported a one-day record of 570 new coronavirus infections in the capital. Although Japan has handled the pandemic better than most countries, cases have been surging recently, with about 2,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19 in a country of 125 million, which is thought to have spent as much as $25 billion to organize the Olympics. Officials said at least four of the test events will involve athletes from abroad, including tests in swimming, gymnastics, diving, and volleyball.
Hidemasa Nakamura, the games delivery officer, said none of the test events will allow fans from abroad, although some events will permit an unspecified number of fans from Japan. Several of the events won't even involve athletes, testing "operations" only as a way to cut back on spending. This is the latest move in a campaign to convince a global audience, sponsors, and the Japanese public that the Olympics and Paralympics will take place despite the pandemic. International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, who was in Tokyo this month to talk up the games, acknowledged much of the planning hinges around the availability of vaccines and rapid testing. Games officials say 11,000 Olympic athletes and 4,400 Paralympic athletes will be allowed into Japan, accompanied by tens of thousands of officials, judges, VIPs, sponsors, media reps, and broadcasters. (The Tokyo selection has been linked to an alleged bribe.)