TOKYO - International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) president, Morinari Watanabe, stated in an email to Rueters, “I feel pressure and responsibility at every event ... naturally, I feel the greatest pressure ever at this event in my life.”
Watanabe, who is also an International Olympic Committee member, says he has never felt such responsibility. The Friendship and Solidarity Competition is a four-nation meet in November that could “open the door” to the Tokyo Olympics.
The Tokyo meet will feature two teams of gymnasts: the Friendship team and the Solidarity team. Six athletes -- 3 men and 3 women -- from the United States will join athletes from Japan, China, and Russia to create the two teams.
The competition marks the first international event to be held at an Olympics venue since the Games were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Athletes, officials, and coaches will arrive at Yoyogi National Gymnasium ahead of the November 8th meet, and Watanabe is determined that Tokyo will pass the first major test of its city’s readiness.
Watanabe said the International Gymnastics Federation, or “FIG” as it is known, began preparations in June, coordinating with the Japanese Gymnastics Association and the Japanese government to ensure that the meet is held safely.
“We want to open the door to Tokyo 2020.”
Athletes are scheduled to arrive in Tokyo four days before the event, but will not be required to quarantine for a period of two weeks, as is usually recommended of international visitors to Japan.
They will, however, be asked to quarantine for two weeks prior to traveling to Japan.
“We have developed COVID-19 guidelines following strictly all recommendations made by WHO (World Health Organisation),” said Watanabe.
“They will be under very strict control for two weeks.”
While in Tokyo, athletes will be limited to the training and competition facilities and the team hotel. All participants will be required to follow strict guidelines formed by the FIG Executive Committee and reviewed by the USA Gymnastics medical staff, as well as undergo regular COVID-19 testing.
The event -- which will be attended by an estimated 2,000 fans -- may help to provide a blueprint for the Olympic Games next summer. Tokyo is set to welcome over 11,000 Olympic athletes in 2021.
Watanabe hopes that the meet will showcase the power of sport during difficult times.
“There is hope in sports. There is friendship in sports. There is solidarity,” he said. “I want people all over the world to know it.”
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