Japan travel bans won’t be a problem for athletes, says IOA

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Even as Japan imposed a strict ban on travel from India, while extending the state of emergency to more cities in the country with just over two months before the Tokyo Olympics, the president of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) Narinder Batra said on Friday that no Indian athlete, support staff or official traveling to Tokyo would be impacted.

The Japanese government has closed its borders to those traveling from India, Nepal or Pakistan to prevent the new variant of the virus from inflicting further damage in a country struggling with a new wave of Covid-19 cases. . The travel ban came into effect on Friday, with the country’s chief cabinet secretary, Katsunobu Kato, saying they will “tighten and loosen entry restrictions depending on the situation”.

But Batra said that even if the travel ban from India was extended until June or July, the Indian contingent bound for Tokyo could travel for the Games which are due to open on July 23.

“This ban concerns the general public coming from India, Pakistan or Nepal. For athletes participating in the Olympics, there are sufficient guarantees taken by the IOC (International Olympic Committee) from the host country that they cannot bar any country from entering. There cannot be separate rules specific to each country,” Batra said.

“So all accredited athletes, coaches and officials from India will have no problem entering Japan, rest assured. We will only have to follow the standard protocols that have been put in place, such as taking the mandatory RT-PCR tests before flying,” he said.

Asked if the AIO would consider the possibility of flying the contingent to Tokyo from another country if India’s travel ban continues until July, Batra said: “It’s only if a situation comes up where they (Japanese government) say you can’t travel from India. You won’t. However, every country has a back-up plan and we will have one too. Anyway, some of our athletes are already training abroad, so they will fly directly to Tokyo.

The development comes amid fresh concerns over the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics taking place in Japan, which has seen a spike in Covid-19 cases. According to the World Health Organization’s website, Japan reported 6,927 cases on May 13, a jump from around 2,500 exactly a month ago.

On Friday, the Japanese government extended its state of emergency, already in place in major cities like Tokyo, Osaka and four other prefectures, to three more prefectures of Hokkaido, Hiroshima and Okayama until May 31. Hokkaido, one of the northernmost islands in the country, will host the Olympic marathon. According to Reuters, the latest emergency measures will place 19 of the country’s 47 prefectures under strict restrictions.

In Japan, voices against hosting the world’s biggest sports spectacle while battling the pandemic have continued to rise. An online petition, gathering more than 3,50,000 signatures, called for the suspension of the Games. The campaign, titled “Stop Tokyo Olympics” and written by renowned Japanese lawyer Kenji Utsunomiya, was submitted to local organizers and the IOC on Friday.

“We are not in that situation and therefore the Games should be canceled,” Utsunomiya told a news conference. “Precious medical resources should be diverted to the Olympics if they take place.”

The IOC and local organizing committee, however, remained firm on their intention to continue the Games as a “ray of hope”, with Tokyo also holding test events in various disciplines over the past month, albeit in the face of voids. stalls.

The IOA, however, does not want Indian athletes to be confused over the staging of the Games. “I wouldn’t like to comment on country-specific issues; these are their personal and political problems. But as far as I know, the Olympics are taking place. I would like to say this directly to our athletes,” Batra said.

With Japan joining a growing list of foreign countries banning travel from India, which is battling a massive second wave, many athletes are finding it increasingly difficult to travel overseas for their final preparation round. Some athletes who have already flown away – like the Indian shooting contingent which moved to Croatia earlier this week – or are expected to do so in the days and weeks ahead, are required to abide by specific quarantine rules at each country.

“Look, the facilities in India are quite good for training,” Batra said. “So to say that I couldn’t train properly because I couldn’t go abroad would be unfair to the facilities offered in our country. We have given all possible support to our athletes, from helping to build a shooting range in personal homes to sending the archers to Pune for training. Hockey teams also trained in Bangalore. Yes, traveling abroad can be a problem right now, but the rules apply to many other countries, not just India.

The IOA President added that about 200 Indian athletes bound for Tokyo, including Paralympians, and some 90 officials have so far received their first dose of vaccination. “About 18 athletes also received their second shots,” he said.

(With contributions from the agency)

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