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Japan holds Tokyo Olympics test event to demonstrate safety protocols

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By Euronews  with AP
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics won't have spectators from abroad
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics won't have spectators from abroad   -   Copyright  Masanori Takei/Kyodo News

A half marathon was held on Wednesday in Japan, as Olympics organisers hoped to show COVID-19 safety measures would ensure a safe running of the games this summer.

The Tokyo Olympics test was actually held in the northern city of Sapporo instead of the capital, due to organisers’ concerns over the summer heat in Tokyo.

Athletes from overseas were part of the field for the half-marathon on what will be the Olympic course, where a system was in place to ensure athletes didn’t come into contact with the general public.

Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto said she hoped it would be an example to the world that proper coronavirus countermeasures can ensure safe sport.

The Hokkaido-Sapporo Marathon Festival 2021 half-marathon event was an important test for Tokyo 2020 organisers and the IOC with the scheduled start of the delayed Summer Olympics less than three months away.

The president of World Athletics, Sebastian Coe, said test events are “absolutely crucial” to the success of the Olympics.

Present in Sapporo for the half marathon, Coe said with 79 days to go before the opening of the games, the event had “demonstrated at the highest level of capability to organise these successful marathon events during this summer's games.”

Several regions of Japan, including the capital, are currently under a COVID state of emergency.

Tokyo, Osaka and several other areas came under a third state of emergency last week, and the death toll in Japan from COVID-19 has passed 10,000.

There was a mixed reaction for locals interviewed at the event, with polls in the country consistently showing 70-80 per cent support for the games being postponed again or cancelled.

Last month Hashimoto hinted that the games could be held behind closed doors with no spectators, due to the ongoing virus situation.

It has already been announced by organisers that international spectators wouldn’t be permitted to attend the delayed 2020 games.

“Everybody, the athletes particularly, will hope for spectators," Coe said on Wednesday.

“But I think they recognise that if that’s not possible then the games will still take place and the competition will still be extremely good.”

The postponed Olympics are to open on July 23.