The Olympics are happening starting July 23 in Tokyo. For Athletes, that means a huge number of rules in addition to the challenges of staging the Games as the pandemic continues. 11,500 athletes are expected to travel to Japan to compete, plus an estimated 79,000 journalists, officials and staff who will also be in attendance.
Here are some of the main rules everyone in attendance must follow:
Vaccines will be available – but they’re not required
The International Olympic Committee announced last month that Pfizer and BioNTech would be donating coronavirus vaccine doses to athletes and country delegations before their travel to Japan, to create a safer environment at the Games and to protect residents of Japan from the virus. Getting vaccinated before travelling to Japan is encouraged, but not required. The rules will apply equally to vaccinated and unvaccinated athletes.
Athletes will be tested early — and they’ll be tested often
Competitors from outside Japan must be tested for coronavirus twice, on different days, within 96 hours before their flights to Japan. They’ll be tested again upon arrival. They are expected to download an app that will monitor their location and be used for contact tracing and to activate the app and location services when they land in Japan. Athletes will be required to quarantine for three days after they arrive. They’ll be permitted to do Games-related activities during this time, so long as they test negative each day and agree to tighter supervision by Tokyo 2020 staff. They also may have their temperatures checked every time they enter an Olympics venue and may be barred from entry if the temperature is over 99.5 degrees a second time after a cool-down period.
Also, Athletes will be tested daily for the coronavirus via a rapid saliva antigen test. If the result is positive or unclear, a slower, but more accurate PCR test will be conducted using the same sample of saliva. If the athlete is confirmed positive for the virus, they will immediately go into isolation and contact tracing will be done. The playbook does not say whether the athlete would be automatically barred from competing. What happens to those who are identified as close contact of a confirmed positive will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, but a negative test result would be required to compete.
Athletes can’t hug or high five
Athletes must stay two meters apart from others, except for situations like being on the playing field. Physical interactions including hugs, handshakes and high-fives are discouraged, in a blow to classic sporting gestures. At mealtimes, athletes are to keep two meters away from others – or eat by themselves. Athletes staying in the Olympic Village are to eat there or at venues or other specially-permitted locations. Those staying elsewhere may only eat at catering facilities at Games venues, the restaurant at their hotel, or in their room using room service or food delivery.
They can’t play tourist
Playing a tourist while in Japan — or doing much of anything besides preparing and competing — is not permitted for athletes. The playbook says athletes may only leave their accommodation to go to official Games venues and limited additional locations, as defined by the list of permitted destinations. Athletes must wear masks almost all the time unless they’re eating, drinking, sleeping, training or competing, athletes are expected to be masked. They also must use dedicated Olympic vehicles to move around, and may only use public transit if it is the only option, such as to reach remote venues.
The complete rules for athletes at the Olympics are dictated in a guide called The Playbook. Rules for other groups, like journalists, staff, and foreign delegations are laid out in their own playbooks. The most recent versions of the guides were published in April; the next and final versions are expected later this month.