When the 2020 Summer Olympics were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many were unsure if the Games would be held at all. Now, 12 months after their original start date, the Tokyo Games are finally set to begin.
The days leading up to the decision to postpone were hectic, says Masa Takaya G’07, spokesperson for the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. “While we all knew that it was the right decision, it took me a bit of time to adjust and restart things for another year,” Takaya says.
In April 2020, Takaya spoke with us about the intense coordination required as the committee shifted its plans in response to the pandemic. A public relations graduate from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications , Takaya is enjoying the challenges of a career that satisfies both his passion for sports and his ultimate goal of working for the Olympic Games. Other Orange alumni will join Takaya at the Tokyo Games as broadcasters , media production assistants and, of course, athletes .
An Olympic Schedule
Once the decision was made to hold the Summer Olympics in 2021, the committee created an internal task force to secure venues for the postponed Games. This was no easy task, since most venues already had other events scheduled.
“The pandemic made everything uncertain,” Takaya says. “In many countries, large-scale facilities including stadiums and arenas were locked down. It wasn’t easy for people to see any certainty in organizing global-scale events.”
Even after the unprecedented postponement, the significance of hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games in this era has never been changed.—Masa Takaya G’07
He says the committee worked closely with the national government and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to simplify the Games in ways that would reduce costs, optimize service levels and incorporate COVID-19 countermeasures.
These days, Takaya’s schedule is packed with media inquiries. “It’s an intense final phase to get everything in place. My schedule is usually occupied with meetings and calls from the morning until very late.” He also spends time reviewing press statements and meeting with the Tokyo 2020 leadership team. During the Games, Takaya will hold daily press briefings with the International Olympic Committee, handling media requests and managing a communications team of more than 80 staff members and dozens of volunteers.
The Rules of the Games
After observing the successful openings of the Japan Professional Football League and the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization, Takaya explains, the Tokyo Organizing Committee was confident that they could deliver safe and secure Games. Several rules are now in place to minimize the risk of athletes and staff contracting the coronavirus.
The most important measures include having all participants take two COVID-19 tests before they arrive in Japan. Athletes and those in regular proximity to them will be tested daily in Tokyo, and all other participants will be tested daily for three days after their arrival. Participants also must use vehicles dedicated exclusively to the Olympic Games and are not allowed to use public transportation. In addition, all participants must eat only in locations where COVID-19 countermeasures are in place. The Games will not have spectators in most of the venues.
Although this year’s Games will look and feel very different from those of the past, the athletes and the Tokyo Organizing Committee are excited to bring the 2020 Summer Games to the world.
“Even after the unprecedented postponement, the significance of hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games in this era has never been changed,” Takaya says. “When the Games open, athletes from every corner of the world will come together, people will rediscover the essential value that sport can play in society, and we can be proud of hosting the first global event after the unprecedented crisis.”