The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) held its first international competition amid the pandemic, the 'Friendship and Solidarity Competition' at the Yoyogi National Gymnasium on 8 November 2020. Following this event, The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee) held a meeting with FIG President Morinari Watanabe and Yasunobu Iwasaki, President of the Anti-Doping, Medical and Science Commission of the FIG, on 10 November.
President Watanabe opened the meeting by emphasising the significance of the event. "I believe we were able to prove to the world that international competitions could be safely held in Tokyo. Moreover, it gave opportunities to the participating athletes to express themselves amid the pandemic, which made this event a success. We hope that the voices of athletes and medical staff, and measures they introduced would lead to a safe and secure Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020", he said in a statement.
Hidemasa Nakamura, Games Delivery Officer (GDO) of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, responded: "I am looking forward to hearing directly from the FIG, who managed to host such an event, and utilising this opportunity effectively". Mikako Kotani, Sports Director of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, similarly responded by praising the efforts of the FIG: "I would like to know the specific measures applied during this competition, as well as the key to uniting the efforts and emotions of the participating staff and athletes, which this event did a wonderful job of".
COVID-19 Measures from the viewpoint of athletes, and a competition crafted by efforts of the staff
The Friendship and Solidarity Competition was the first international competition of an Olympic sport to be held since the outbreak of the pandemic in Japan, with athletes joining from abroad. To prepare for such an international event amid the pandemic, the FIG had been releasing medical guidelines from the very early stages of preparation. These guidelines have taken into account the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) guidelines for sport events. The FIG reported that both the staff and athletes took extra care to understand and follow the rules set by the guidelines, which led to a safe and secure event without any cases or clusters of COVID-19. Athletes gave positive feedback, such as “I was glad to be able to participate in this event”, and “I felt safe during the event”.
President Watanabe shared and highlighted the importance of wellbeing for the athletes in designing measures and guidelines. How the athletes feel, and whether they could perform confidently in such an environment must be a point to consider, even if safety is theoretically achieved. “Securing safety by setting rules is not enough”, he said. “The focus must be on whether the athletes feel safe mentally”.
The competition also gave lessons on testing, including an incident where gymnast Kohei Uchimura falsely tested positive in a PCR test carried out before the event. Measures to avoid such false positive/negative test results must also be set for the Tokyo 2020 Games. President Iwasaki commented with optimism: “If we could summarise the wisdom of various experts, including Japanese natural and social scientific knowledge, and bring it together towards the Tokyo 2020 Games, we would be able to create a framework to respond to problems that we face during the Games”. The Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee will continue to create rules and guidelines for the Tokyo 2020 Games by cooperating with the Government of Japan, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), International Federations and the WHO.
In the Friendship and Solidarity competition, it was the strong will of the staff from each area to “not have a single case of COVID-19 from the event” that led to numerous additional measures and cooperation, and ultimately a safe operation of the event. Close communication and collaboration with Olympic teams, and moreover, staff from all areas, including hospitality and transportation, to create a safe and secure event, would also be essential for the Tokyo 2020 Games.
Utilising actual competition operations in the COVID-era for a safe and secure Tokyo 2020 Games
The reports by FIG provided insight into what actual competition operations might look like in the era of COVID-19. The Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee believes that effectively utilising these findings are crucial in making Tokyo 2020 a safe and secure event. The Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee will continue to collect information from various sports competitions and will communicate with all relevant parties to prepare for the Tokyo 2020 Games to be held in 2021.