On Wednesday 11 November, by means of an online video conference, the Tokyo 2020 Press Operations team provided an update on the current state of preparation for media attendance at the delayed Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Although generally informative, the presentation and the subsequent Q&A sessions highlighted just how much still sits within the realms of the unknown. This was clearly not due to a lack of planning or will on the part of the Tokyo LOCOG but rather by virtue of the ever-changing situation with regards to the COVID-19 pandemic. Credit should go to all at Tokyo 2020 in their efforts to provide a sporting spectacle in 2021. Things will be different; we will all be required to adjust the ways we work and, in some cases, seek compromise but, following this presentation, we feel confident that in eight months’ time we will have the opportunity to report on and photograph a competition worthy of the title Olympic or Paralympic Games.
For those of you who have been granted Olympic or Paralympic accreditation, either directly through your NOC or via the FEI, the full content of the Press Operations briefing will be available to read on the Tokyo 2020 extranet. If you have not yet registered for this facility you can do so here: Link to Tokyo 2020 extranet registration
Ahead of 2021, the Games are undergoing a process of “Simplification”. The decision to postpone was made just four months before the Games were due to commence. With so much already in place this put the OC in a good position to streamline operations without adversely impacting the sport and the ability of the media to provide substantial and quality coverage. The Tokyo 2020 watchwords are Simple, Safe and Secure.
Due to the need for social distancing it is clear that spectator numbers will be restricted however, from a maximum spectator limit of 5,000 enforced in Japan in July 2020, the prefecture of Kanagawa is currently running a test that allows 90% spectator capacity with mitigated distancing requirements.
The IOC is working with the five International Sports Federations (IFs) and the event organisers to gather information around COVID-19 countermeasures. This information is being considered by a working group consisting of members of various IOC departments, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), Tokyo 2020 and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Currently a 14-day quarantine period is required to enter Japan from most countries. Understanding that this is difficult, if not impossible, to impose on the world’s media ahead of the Games considerations are being given to adapt quarantine to allow stakeholders to be able to perform their duties under certain conditions. One aspect that is clear is that everyone will be required to take a COVID-19 test prior to departure and on arrival in Japan.
Consideration is also being given to a range of measures to protect stakeholders by minimising contact including capacities of press areas in competition venues – this relates primarily but not exclusively to the MPC, Venue Media Centres (VMC), press conferences, mixed zones and photo positions. It is possible that numbers will be limited in certain VMCs and photo positions. Whereas at previous Games a limited number of events have been ticketed for the press rather than just offering open access (opening and closing ceremonies, key finals in sports such as athletics and swimming) this is likely to extend to additional events next year. We wouldn’t expect this to impact on equestrian sport as we benefit from a large outdoor working environment during competition however we were able to establish that, should numbers be restricted for access to VMCs or photo positions, those holding sport-specific accreditation (Es/EPs) should take priority over those with E/EP accreditation (we would imagine with the exception of Pool photographers).
The IOC and Tokyo 2020 are developing a detailed playbook that will provide all necessary information. It is expected that this will be available in its first incarnation early 2021 but, as the situation regarding COVID-19 infections, mitigation and the possible arrival of an effective vaccine creates a constantly changing outlook, it is not expected that a finalised version will be complete until May 2021.
Specific to the media, consideration is being given to arrivals and departures, a code of conduct during the Games, accommodation, and transport. There will be a series of informal surveys sent to accredited media to help support this planning.
Arrivals/Departures: It is important that all accredited media submit information to the ADS (Arrivals and Departures Information System) when this goes live in late January 2021. This will assist in calculating key traffic flow through the airports and help prevent unnecessary delays.
Media Transport: The Media Transport (MT) service will operate throughout the Games. Accredited media will also be able to use public transport within the Tokyo area free of charge. It was stated that, at this time, there will NOT be MT buses running from the airports to hotels. We are unsure if there will be a service running from the airports to the Media Transport Mall (MTM). We will update you if we hear any more on this matter. A full and comprehensive Media Transport guide will be available in the spring.
Accommodation: Media are encouraged to make use of the official media hotels, but it was made clear that they are not required to do so. Tokyo 2020 is still negotiating with these hotels regarding the transfer of room allocations from 2020 to 2021 and an update will be forthcoming. There is no update at this time on the availability of additional rooms for those persons who did not previously chose to book official accommodation. Of more concern was the statement from Tokyo 2020 that they are currently “negotiating” with hotels regarding refunds on hotel rooms. The ramifications of this statement are currently unclear.
Media Services: The Main Press Centre (MPC) has been reconfigured to allow for improved social distancing. Photographers will still benefit from the attendance of the Professional Services departments of Nikon, Canon, Sony and Panasonic. The scope and size of VMCs will be calculated and accommodated for in line with the capacities at previous games.
Press Conferences / Mixed Zones: Medallist press conferences will still take place at competition venues. These will also be livestreamed – essentially to allow the wider, non-sports-specific media to avoid unnecessary travel and to manage numbers. Currently there is no situation where our members will not be able to attend press conferences although it has to be noted that the COVID-19 protection protocols around athletes are very strict to it is fair to say that the format and layout of these conferences will be different to what we are used to. There will be future updates regarding mixed zones and the opportunities for one-to-one interviews etc.
Photo Positions / Medal Ceremonies: There is no current change to the provision of photo positions, but it has been made clear that certain positions in particular sports will be required to limit numbers. As previously mentioned, there was an inference that Sport Specific photographers would be prioritised. The IAEJ will seek further information and clarification on this as the situation develops.
In summary, Tokyo 2020 are working hard to produce a fantastic sporting event, but it goes without saying that things will be quite different to what we are used to. There will be inconveniences and irritations, but we will have to learn to take these in our stride and be willing to work with the OC to provide the safest and best possible working environment. We will continue to provide updates as and when we are provided with more information.
Summary by IAEJ Board member, Jon Stroud