TOKYO: Tokyo will host a one-off international gymnastics tournament next month, organisers said on Monday, in what could serve as a practice run ahead of the postponed Olympics.

Thirty-two gymnasts from China, Russia, the United States and Japan will face off at the Nov 8 event — the first major multinational sporting contest Japan has held since the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic hit earlier this year.

The competition, which has been under discussion for months, will have strict anti-infection measures in place.

It is still unclear exactly how the Tokyo Olympics, which were forced back a year by the Covid-19 crisis to July and August 2021, will go ahead. With many countries experiencing fresh waves of contagion, big questions — including whether spectators will be allowed — remain unresolved.

But Morinari Watanabe, president of the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG), said next month’s contest could provide a reference point for Olympic bosses.

“This is being organised as our way to uplift the world, which has been driven down by the coronavirus,” Watanabe told an online press conference. “If it ends up supporting efforts toward the Olympics, as an eventual outcome, I will be happy.”

Before travelling to Japan, the gymnasts’ health will be monitored with repeated Covid tests, which will continue on a daily basis after they arrive. They will only be allowed to move between their hotels and the competition and practice venues on special vehicles. Japan’s 14-day quarantine requirement will also be waived, but all the athletes involved are already living under varying degrees of isolation.

Around 2,000 to 3,000 spectators will be allowed at the contest, Watanabe said — just a fraction of the capacity of the Yoyogi First Gymnasium, where the event will be held.

The venue will host handball and badminton matches during next year’s Games, while gymnastics events will take place at a newly built facility.

Published in Dawn, October 13th, 2020

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