Last year when the Tokyo 2020 Olympics was around the corner, the Japanese city of Kamo had spent some 70million Yen (app. US$640,000) on horizontal bars, gymnastic mats as well as making upgrades to training facilities for 42 Russian gymnasts and coaches who are expected to use the facilities but they will no longer be coming to the far-east Asian country.
The reason for the sudden decision is due to the COVID-19 resurgence according to local officials. The officials in the northwestern city says they regret the lost opportunity to host the team for pre-Olympics training in Japan because COVID-19.
The game was initially slated to take place back in 2020 but was rescheduled and now its only eight weeks away. However, even if the event will take place, foreign spectators will not be allowed and more than 100 municipalities have reportedly cancelled plans to host overseas teams.
“Local kids who could be future star gymnasts were disappointed to miss the opportunity to meet the Russian gymnasts,” Kamo official Hirokazu Suzuki told Reuters.
Currently, the host city itself is still in the state of emergency over the pandemic however majority of the cancellations have been in the 500 and municipalities which are involved in the Olympics host town programme which foreign teams base their pre-Games training in Japanese facilities.
Some teams such as the Australia’s Judo team pulled out due to safety concerns while some delegations such as those from Cuba are slated to stay in Higashimatsuyama city which is north of Tokyo – however the municipalities decided not to host.
Organisers say the Games will be held safely. Several opinion polls have shown most Japanese people want the event to be cancelled or postponed again.
The national government earmarked 13 billion yen for municipalities to host training camps while imposing coronavirus measures, officials said.
Municipalities apart from Tokyo were expected to see a boost of about $110 billion through 2030 from the Games, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government said in a March 2017 estimate.
“Training camps will give a huge impulse to the economies of towns and cities where they are held, but that is being lost,” said Katsuhiro Miyamoto, an emeritus professor of economics at Kansai University who studies the economic impact of the Olympics.
In fact the US track and field team pulled out of planned training camp which came as a surprise to the officials in Narita which is east of Tokyo.
About 120 athletes and staff, including star sprinter Justin Gatlin, were set to come for the camp, said Kentaro Abe, a municipal official in charge of host town projects.
This won’t be the first time that Narita will be hosting the athletes from the United States as the relationship between them started back in 2015 when the municipality hosted the US training camp ahead of the world athletics championships in Beijing.
“It doesn’t mean that our efforts to promote sport exchange between Japan and the United States came to nothing,” Abe told Reuters, adding that city would look to continue the relationship.
Canadian swimmers including coaches pulled out of pre-Olympics training slated over three weeks in July in the central city of Toyota which is the home of the popular automaker and Olympic sponsor Toyota Motor Corp.
Such cancellations could add to the pain for towns and regions that are already smarting from a drop-off in tourism.
The COVID-19 has dealt a big blow on several plans as many athletes are ditching plans to come to the country. Another case is of Eriko Tsujino who own a hotel in western Izumisano city.
She stated her concern that she could lose about 60 bookings from Mongolian and Ugandan national teams if they ditch their plans to train in Japan.
“If they were to cancel at the last minute, it would cause a huge loss,” she told Reuters, saying the bookings had still not been confirmed because of the state of emergency.
After the Russians cancelled their camp in Kamo, officials there decided at the last minute to host a much smaller Portuguese delegation of one female artistic gymnast and two accompanying staff, Suzuki said.
But the city also sought to keep friendly relations with the Russian gymnasts, asking kids and other locals to show them support with making video messages and letters.
Despite the global vaccine campaign, there have been numerous cases of new COVID-19 clusters leading to third and even fourth wave of the pandemic in several places and that’s the primary reason why many countries are wary of their border.