First photos emerge of Covid-safe Olympic village at Tokyo Games

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·Sports Reporter
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Cardboard beds (pictured left) and glass between training equipment (pictured right) at the Tokyo Olympic Village.
Tokyo Olympic Village will feature cardboard beds (pictured left) and glass between training equipment (pictured right). (Getty Images)

The first photos of the Olympic Village at the Tokyo Olympics have been released featuring small single rooms, cardboard beds and a fever clinic just over a month before the Games begin.

Organisers are in the home stretch before the July 23 opening ceremony, and are trying to build confidence that the mega-event will be safe for athletes and the Japanese public.

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There were some changes to the original plans after a mixed zone for guests had been scrapped, while they unveiled the dedicated virus clinic.

Drinking in groups would also be prohibited, in an attempt to promote social-distancing.

Warning posters urging anti-virus measures including room ventilation have been placed throughout the mini-city, which can sleep 18,000 athletes and team members during the Olympics and 8,000 during the Paralympics.

The first glimpse of the village since last year's postponement revealed a virtual city within a city, with everything from a playground and florist to dry cleaners and ice baths for athletes and staff.

The site stretches across 44 hectares of reclaimed land in the Tokyo Bay, with 21 residents towers, a 3,000-seat canteen, a park, gyms and recreation facilities, complete with Nintendo consoles.

Young trees that organisers hope will eventually provide shade during the fierce Tokyo summer dot the otherwise almost eerily empty village, populated only by workers, uniformed guards on bikes and firefighters carrying out drills.

But in just a few weeks, all that will change, with national teams taking up residence and up to 3,000 staff manning everything from stops for autonomous buses to kitchens serving thousands of meals.

But conditions are not necessarily luxurious.

Images showed small rooms, with a single bed, of only nine square metres and doubles of 12 square metres.

Athletes will have to share the room, which experts have claimed could increase the risk of spreading Covid-19.

Another unusual feature is the cardboard bed frames.

Beds are made from recyclable cardboard, but are tough enough to stand up to beefy weightlifters and towering basketball players, organisers say.

Athletes will arrive only shortly before their event and must leave 48 hours after being eliminated or the completion of their event.

A general view of the athletes' room replica during press preview of the Village Plaza as part of the Olympic and Paralympic Village media tour on June 20, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.
A general view of the athletes' room replica during press preview of the Village Plaza as part of the Olympic and Paralympic Village media tour on June 20, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Takashi Aoyama/Getty Images)

Athletes told to drink alone, sleep on cardboard beds

The 'fun-factor' of the Olympic Village will also be different to previous Games.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, officials have asked for athletes to 'drink alone'.

"When you drink alcohol, in principle, you are requested to drink alone," Takashi Kitajima, general manager for the village, said.

They are also encouraged to eat alone, during their stay.

The spectre of the coronavirus, which forced the postponement of the Games last year, will hang heavy over the village.

A view of the main dining hall of the Olympic Village during a media tour of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Village in Tokyo on June 20, 2021.
A view of the main dining hall of the Olympic Village during a media tour of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Village in Tokyo on June 20, 2021. (Photo by BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP via Getty Images)

The newly added fever clinic, separate from the main medical facility, will be used to test and isolate people suspected of virus infection or considered close contacts.

"This is just another example of how we are stringently managing matters about possible Covid infections," said Kitajima.

Testing will be "the biggest challenge", with about 20,000 carried out each day, according to Tetsuya Miyamoto, an official with Tokyo 2020's medical services.

Teams will collect their own samples for processing largely off-site by private operators.

Other virus measures include reduced seating for diners, plexiglass shields between gym equipment, and a kit of hand sanitisers and soap to be handed to village residents.

Athletes barred from leaving Village

The village will be particularly important for athletes this Games because they are barred from going anywhere else except training and competition venues.

Kitajima promised excellent safety protocols, and athletes aren't likely to face the hot water shortages or dodgy plumbing that have made headlines at some previous Games.

Olympic officials expect most of those staying in the village will have been vaccinated, but the rules apply regardless of inoculation status, and athletes could be kicked out of the Games if they fail to comply.

In a taste of the challenges ahead, a member of the Ugandan Olympic delegation that arrived in Japan on Saturday tested positive for the virus, despite reportedly being vaccinated and testing negative before travel.

Partitions are seen installed at the fitness centre to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus during a media tour of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Village in Tokyo on June 20, 2021.
Partitions are seen installed at the fitness centre to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus during a media tour of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Village in Tokyo on June 20, 2021. (Photo by BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP via Getty Images)

The safety measures are set to make for a Games like no other, with overseas fans already banned and a decision on domestic spectators expected as soon as Monday.

Public opposition to the Games appears to have softened in recent days, though a handful of protesters stood outside the village chanting against the Olympics as media toured the site.

A new poll Sunday showed 86 percent of Japanese fear the Games will spark a rebound in virus cases.

After the Games, the village will be transformed into thousands of luxury bayside condos. Around 900 were sold before the postponement last year — some carrying a price tag of 170 million yen ($1.5 million).

with AFP

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