TOKYO (AP) — Tokyo Olympic organizers on Tuesday postponed a water polo test event set for this weekend and said it might be rescheduled for May or June. Reports in Japan say technical officials were unable to go to Japan because of strict procedures to enter the country. Organizers did not confirm that but said in a statement: “Considering the schedule of each stakeholder under the current global COVID-19 conditions, it was felt that postponing the event was necessary.”
The news comes less than four months before the opening of the postponed Olympics and could be a setback as organizers and the International Olympic Committee attempt to hold the Tokyo Games in the middle of a pandemic. The Olympics are to open on July 23. Two other test events also appear to be off. Swimming governing body FINA said on its website that a diving World Cup event set for April 18-23 in Tokyo had been canceled, and it reported the same for an artistic swimming event for May 1-4.
FINA said it would issue a complete statement later this week. FINA said the “decision of re-allocating the FINA Olympic qualifiers planned in Japan is under review.” Tokyo organizers did manage over the weekend to pull off a test event for Paralympic wheelchair rugby.The BBC reported last week, citing a letter from FINA it had viewed, that the diving event was canceled because it “will not properly ensure” athletes’ safety. Japan has attributed about 9,200 deaths to COVID-19. It has handled the pandemic better than many countries, but not as well as most in Asia.
The Olympics and Paralympics will involve 15,400 athletes entering the country, and tens of thousands of officials, judges, media and broadcasters. Fans from abroad have been banned from attending. North Korea on Tuesday became the first country to drop out of the Tokyo Games because of coronavirus fears, a decision that underscores the challenges facing Japan as it struggles to stage a global sporting event amid a raging pandemic. A website run by North Korea’s Sports Ministry said its national Olympic committee decided during a meeting on March 25 not to participate in the games to protect athletes from the “world public health crisis caused by COVID-19.”