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Japan asks for small VIP delegations to Olympics amid pandemic

Tokyo Olympics symbols. Photo: Kyodo. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

TOKYO, Mar 15, 2021, Kyodo. Japan has asked nations sending their heads of state or government to this summer’s Olympics and Paralympics to limit the number of each of their accompanying staff to 11 people, sources with knowledge of the matter said Saturday, Kyodo News reported.

The restrictions are aimed at enabling countries’ “Olympic diplomacy” while minimizing the risk of the further spread of the novel coronavirus in the host country through the world’s top sports extravaganza, the sources said.

The Olympic rings are pictured near the National Stadium in Tokyo on Feb. 18, 2021. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo
Countries are also requested to limit the size of their Cabinet-level delegations, such as those headed by the sports minister, to five people each, the sources said.

Top officials from around the world including French President Emmanuel Macron, whose nation will host the 2024 Games in Paris, are expected to travel to Japan for the Olympics’ opening and closing ceremonies.

The Japanese government has called for the limits as Tokyo and its vicinity is still under the pandemic-induced state of emergency and struggling to contain the virus as well as its variants from overseas, believed to be more infectious, the sources said.

A source with a foreign embassy said even top-level visiting officials will be asked to undergo coronavirus testing within 72 hours of departing for Japan and again upon arrival. They will be accompanied by Japanese government officials during their stays.

Visiting VIPs’ access to athletes will also be severely restricted, a source said. Travel will only be allowed using designated vehicles, with the use of public transport prohibited in principle.

The Japanese government and the Tokyo Games organizing committee are explaining their stance about visiting officials and virus countermeasures to governments through Japan’s embassies and their national Olympic committees.

The final framework will be hammered out based on the coronavirus situation and the responses from participating countries.

The government is eager to welcome top officials to broaden diplomatic bonds. Prior to the games’ one-year postponement, it had made preparations for the attendance of government leaders and heads of states from more than 100 countries and regions during the opening ceremony.

But with the global health crisis still raging, some leading figures may refrain from making the trip, so the government is working quickly to confirm the status of visitors.

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