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Tokyo-bound athletes to have short stay in Japan-IOC

FILE PHOTO: Thomas Bach, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President, speaks during a joint news conference between IOC and Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Tokyo 2020) in Tokyo, Japan, November 16, 2020. Du Xiaoyi/Pool via REUTERS

(Reuters) - Athletes competing at next year’s Tokyo Olympics will have a shorter than usual stay at the world’s biggest multi-sports event due to tight COVID-19 health protocols, the International Olympic Committee said.

IOC President Thomas Bach urged national Olympic committees to adapt athletes’ and support staff travel plans so that they do not arrive too early or stay too late, to minimise the risk of infections.

“National Olympic committees should adapt the arrival and departure policies to ensure that athletes can arrive five days prior to the start of the competition and depart a maximum two days after of completion of competition,” Bach told a virtual news conference on Monday.

“This applies to each sport’s specific officials, not only athletes. Exceptions will be considered subject to certain sport specific criteria,” he said.

This means athletes competing in the second week of the Olympics would not be attending the traditional teams’ parade in the Olympic stadium at the opening ceremony of the event. Those arriving early would miss out on the closing ceremony.

The IOC said there would also be tighter controls on who can stay in the athletes village to protect the competitors.

The pandemic earlier this year forced the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics by a year.

With more than 10,000 athletes from across the world expected for the Games, there are fears that their arrival could cause a spike in COVID-19 cases.

In an announcement on Friday, organisers said the postponed Games would cost an additional 294 billion yen ($2.8 billion) with the bill to be shared by the Tokyo 2020 organising committee, the Japanese government and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG).

Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Christian Radnedge