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Olympic Handbook Details Restrictions For Games During Pandemic

NOEL KING, HOST:

A new handbook lays out the rules for holding the Olympic Games during a pandemic. In Tokyo, there will be no cheering and no high-fives. Those are just two of many restrictions. The Olympics are set to begin in July, but will they really? Here's NPR's Anthony Kuhn.

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: At a press conference Wednesday, Olympic Games Operations Director Pierre Ducrey said the booklet lays out what participants can expect before they arrive in Tokyo.

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PIERRE DUCREY: Including a test before you leave your country, a test upon the time you enter the country and what will be the testing regime for each stakeholder group whilst they are in Japan.

KUHN: Athletes will be tested at least every four days. They'll be barred from using public transportation or taking their masks off indoors, except to eat, drink or sleep. But they won't have to quarantine or be vaccinated. The handbooks are preliminary and leave many questions unanswered, such as will any spectators be allowed? Or what if participants violate the social distancing rules? Craig Spence is an International Paralympic Committee official. He told the briefing, organizers are confident the games can be held safely because others already have.

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CRAIG SPENCE: Thousands of sport events, including parasport competitions, have taken place without incident since the pandemic began.

KUHN: But the Japanese public is not so upbeat. Tokyo is under a state of emergency, and polls show 80% of respondents think the games should be put off or cancelled. Even organizers and Japanese officials have privately expressed doubts. Speaking to lawmakers Tuesday, though, the head of the Tokyo Games organizing committee, Yoshiro Mori, sounded defiant.

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YOSHIO MORI: (Speaking Japanese).

KUHN: "We will make sure the games will be held," he said, "no matter what the COVID situation may be." At a Japanese Olympic Committee meeting yesterday, Mori was asked about putting more women on the Olympic Committee board. Mori, who is 83, replied that women talk too much and said that their speaking time at meetings needs to be limited, quote, "otherwise we'll never be able to finish," unquote. Mori later apologized for his remarks, which drew widespread criticism, but he refused to resign. He told the Mainichi newspaper that he'd been thoroughly scolded by his own wife, daughter and granddaughter.

Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Seoul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Anthony Kuhn is NPR's correspondent based in Seoul, South Korea, reporting on the Korean Peninsula, Japan, and the great diversity of Asia's countries and cultures. Before moving to Seoul in 2018, he traveled to the region to cover major stories including the North Korean nuclear crisis and the Fukushima earthquake and nuclear disaster.