Tokyo water polo test event postponed due to COVID-19 impact on schedules
Newsfrom JapanSports Tokyo 2020
By Chris Gallagher
TOKYO (Reuters) - Tokyo Olympic organisers said on Tuesday they had decided to postpone a water polo test event planned for this weekend, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt preparations for the start of the Summer Games in July.
Organisers are seeking a suitable date in May or June to hold the event, the Tokyo 2020 committee said in a statement.
“Carrying out test events is greatly important for the preparation of the Tokyo 2020 Games,” Tokyo 2020 said.
“In order to ensure the best level of preparations for these test events and for the Tokyo 2020 Games, considering the schedule of each stakeholder under the current global COVID-19 conditions, it was felt that postponing the events was necessary.”
Public broadcaster NHK reported earlier that overseas officials were unable to come to Japan for the event due to strict COVID-19 countermeasures. A Tokyo 2020 spokeswoman declined to comment.
The postponement is a setback for organisers just days after they restarted test events, which are important dry runs to confirm the Games’ operational capabilities, for the first time in more than a year.
Organisers were initially planning 18 test events in April and May, starting with wheelchair rugby April 3-4.
But complicating matters further, the International Swimming Federation (FINA) is expected to cancel Olympic qualifiers for diving and synchronised swimming that were to double as test events this month and next in Tokyo.
It is also expected to cancel a non-test event, the Olympic marathon swim qualifier in the southern Japanese city of Fukuoka in late May.
FINA said on Friday it was reviewing the events and would make an announcement this week, without giving a reason. The BBC reported that the global swimming body thought organisers’ planned COVID-19 precautions “will not properly ensure” the safety of athletes at the diving competition.
Yasuo Mori, a senior Tokyo 2020 official, acknowledged on Sunday that FINA intended to cancel the events and said Tokyo organisers would hold talks with the swimming federation this week.
The calendar on FINA’s website shows the status of the events as already being cancelled. FINA representatives did not immediately reply to an emailed request for comment.
Japan is struggling with a nascent fourth wave in the pandemic driven by variants of the coronavirus. The resurgence in cases is also affecting the nationwide Olympic torch relay.
The city of Osaka has formally requested that its leg of the torch relay, scheduled for April 14, be cancelled as the western metropolis grapples with a spike in infections.
(Reporting by Chris Gallagher; Editing by Michael Perry, Simon Cameron-Moore and Hugh Lawson)