Japan to Assist Towns Hosting Foreign Olympic Athletes Take Virus Measures

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.

The government will pay all costs for measures to combat the novel coronavirus for municipalities that will host overseas athletes for training camps before next summer’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

The cost of the measures will include the cost of virus testing and exclusive use of accommodation facilities. The Sports Agency plans to include about ¥13 billion for related expenses in the third supplementary budget for fiscal 2020.

The host town program is to be implemented as the first attempt of its kind in the history of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. It is designed to build up excitement nationwide for the Tokyo Games by facilitating interaction between overseas athletes and local citizens.

As of Dec. 2, 510 local governments have decided to accept athletes representing 181 countries and regions that are set to participate in the Games. However, concerns have also arisen among host towns amid swelling expenses related to measures taken to battle the coronavirus.

The central government, for its part, intends to push ahead in earnest with preparations for the Games by boosting financial assistance to the local governments that accept the athletes.

The financial assistance will be extended under a system whereby prefectural governments set up a fund — based on money granted by the central government — to cover the related costs needed for local governments.

Virus tests for athletes are expected to be administered about four times — once in every four days or so — during pre-Games training camps, and once or twice during interactions with local citizens after the Games.

The government will also bear expenses such as the cost of testing for local citizens who are likely to interact with the athletes, transportation of specimens and personnel expenses, including doctors and nurses needed to administer the tests.

As additional measures to fight against infections, the central government has asked host towns to secure lodging facilities for exclusive use of the athletes to prevent contact with other guests, and to have the athletes to keep their distance from ordinary passengers when using transportation such as airplanes and trains.

The expenses associated with these measures are also expected to be included in the government’s financial assistance.

As for how much space would be needed for athletes to maintain a safe distance from others both at their accommodation facilities and on public transportation systems, the government is considering presenting a figure as a yardstick.

To prevent local health care systems from being overburdened in handling measures associated with the hosting of foreign athletes, the government will also assist local governments with expenses needed to secure enough beds at medical facilities and rental of automatic translation devices.

It will also cover personnel expenses of public health nurses, thus boosting the functions of public health centers.

The expenses associated with measures to deal with the coronavirus, including those for the testing of athletes during the Games, have been set at ¥96 billion, which will be borne by the central government and the Tokyo metropolitan government.

“We’d like to eliminate the anxiety of the local governments and accelerate the preparations for the event,” a government official said.