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Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Tokyo Olympics' visiting media contingent to be tracked with GPS

Organizers call rules 'acceptable' in light of COVID, eye more vaccines

Tokyo 2020 organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto, right, and committee CEO Toshiro Muto chat before the start of an executive board meeting on June 8.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- International journalists covering the Tokyo Olympics this summer will be subjected to close monitoring as a coronavirus precaution, including via GPS, the games' organizers told reporters on Tuesday.

Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee President Seiko Hashimoto explained that visiting media personnel would be expected to comply with the monitoring for safety's sake. "In case of a breach of the rules, we will revoke media accreditation," she said.

In principle, incoming journalists will be required to refrain from going out during the first 14 days of their stay in Japan. From the fourth day, however, visiting reporters will be allowed to go to places they have registered in advance -- as long as they do not use public transportation to get there. They will undergo daily COVID-19 tests on the first three days.

The organizers intend to work closely with hotels to keep track of the visiting reporters, who will be asked not to use shared accommodation, such as friends' homes. Initially, about 350 hotels were expected to accommodate the global media, but Tokyo 2020 officials now aim to trim that number to 150.

The GPS monitoring will be conducted using each journalist's smartphone. Organizers will ask them to keep the positioning function on and save the data, they said without clarifying the technical details. Individuals will be required to show the data if the need arises, according to the organizers.

Media based in Japan will be exempt from the restrictions. The monitoring of foreign journalists will be lifted after 14 days, at which point they will also be allowed to interact with local residents.

"We think this is an acceptable restriction given the current COVID situation," Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto told reporters on Tuesday, when asked whether the rules put press freedom at risk.

"This is not relevant to the freedom of the press," he said.

Muto also said that organizers are "considering" vaccinating domestic media, but that the details were still up for discussion. He added that it is "possible" the organizers will ask for further vaccine donations to shore up safety.

One thing that was not discussed at a Tokyo 2020 executive board meeting on Tuesday, he said, was the possibility of canceling or postponing the games. "There was no talk about that whatsoever," he said.

The organizers stressed that 80% of the medical workers needed for the games have already been secured. Up to 230 doctors and 310 nurses will be required daily during the event.

Hashimoto said officials aim to find the other 20% of the medical personnel within the month.

Preparations for the games, she emphasized, are proceeding. "I want the Japanese people to praise the athletes who will gather after overcoming a hard time," she said.

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