Live Update: Tokyo Olympics: NPR

A man wearing a face mask passes the Olympic ring for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Despite the worldwide increase in coronavirus cases, the game will be launched in Japan this week.

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A man wearing a face mask passes the Olympic ring for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Despite the worldwide increase in coronavirus cases, the game will be launched in Japan this week.

Toru Hanai / Getty Images

Soccer player Megan Rapinoe, swimmer Katie Ledecky, and gymnast Simone Biles are among the 11,000 athletes who will be competing in the Tokyo Olympics starting July 23 this week.

More than 600 athletes from all over the United States have to head to Japan to represent Team USA and overcome the twists and turns of this year’s rare Olympics.

Journey to Japan

Due to the coronavirus protocol, athletes can only check in to the Olympic Village 5 days before the scheduled event. Athletes need to adjust their body clock to a time zone of at least 13 hours ahead, as well as adapt to the heat and humidity of the area. A training camp for swimming and weightlifting teams was set up in Hawaii, where conditions are close to Japan. However, Tokyo is still 19 hours ahead of Hawaii, so this place has its own challenges.

To get used to the new country, many Team USA athletes are training in Tokyo outside the Olympic Village at the Setagaya Center run by the US Olympic Committee. The training base provides nutritional services, sports medicine and recovery services.

The risk of coronavirus is very close

International Olympic Committee Chairman Thomas Bach Said On July 15, the risk of athletes transmitting the virus to locals was “zero.”

However, cases of coronavirus have already occurred throughout the Olympic Village and within Team USA. According to the organizers, 55 Olympic-related people have been tested positive for coronavirus since July 1, except for athletes.

At least two player He was the first player on the South African football team to test positive in the player village. American athletes, including tennis player Coco Gauff and members of the men’s basketball team, withdrew after a positive COVID-19 test.And more recently, an alternative to US women’s gymnastics team Similarly, the test is positive.

“Our top priority is the health and safety of everyone,” Sarah Hirshland, CEO of the US Olympic and Paralympic Commission, told NPR’s Ailsa Chang about preparing for this year’s Games. Hirschland says her mission is to help athletes reach their full potential.

The COVID-19 protocol at the Olympic Village has become strict after Japan declared a state of emergency in Tokyo during the world’s largest sporting event. For example, the team should book the canteen location in advance so that the canteen is not overcrowded. In addition to daily testing and social distance, a “soft quarantine” was conducted in which athletes were restricted to Olympic venues, villages and designated hotels.

According to the International Olympic Committee, more than 80% of athletes planning to compete in Tokyo will be vaccinated against COVID-19. Team USA is encouraged to be vaccinated, but Hirschland states that it is not mandatory.

“We also believe that some people have strong beliefs and concerns and want to give everyone the opportunity to make their own decisions,” she says.

She states that athletes who test positive for COVID-19 will be replaced as if they were injured, making sure they are “healthy and safe.”

A once-in-a-lifetime experience — for many reasons

The tradition of this year’s Olympics is very different. Audiences are banned from Olympic events, including the opening ceremony, as many athletes are not even allowed to arrive in Japan until the opening ceremony is over.When they arrive and compete, the athlete who wins drape Gold, silver, or bronze medal on your neck.

Hirschland says mental health is an organization’s top priority this year, especially when it’s being tested in a unique way. One of those challenges was the postponement of the Olympics for a year due to a pandemic.

“It was incredibly difficult for athletes to adjust their mindset around the next year of training. When training at such an elite level, to all the sensations of normal life Commitment, discipline, and frankly sacrifice are pretty important. To extend it for another year, it was a pretty big mountain to climb for our athlete population, “says Hirschland.

The environment of the Tokyo Olympics is different from the competitions of the past few decades, but the spirit of the team is still sufficient.

“There are still signs of a tall tower with the American flag on the railing, and there’s a lot of pride in the team. Still, it’s incredibly special to realize that you’re really part of something global. The environment is born, “says Hirschland.

Hirschland also says that many athletes are more likely to achieve their personal bests due to the extended training period. “The elasticity of Team USA was extraordinary,” she says. “I tell you the truth, Team USA is ready.”

Elena Burnett and Christopher Intagliata produced and edited the audio for this interview. Digital news intern Dalia Faheid has adapted it to the Web.

Live Update: Tokyo Olympics: NPR

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