Jul 5, 2021 - Sports

Athletes traveling to Olympics face logistical hurdles

A security guard stands outside the main entrance during the official opening of the Tokyo 2020 Main Press Center ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games on July 01, 2021.
The main entrance of the Tokyo 2020 Main Press Center on July 01, 2021. Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images

Convening 11,000 athletes from more than 200 countries for the Tokyo Olympics is proving to be a logistical nightmare, Bloomberg reports.

The big picture: The pandemic has upended flight schedules, closed international borders and COVID-19 testing and vaccination requirements are posing enormous challenges for athletes traveling to the games.

Driving the news: The Olympic team from Fiji is traveling to the games on a plane that typically transports chilled seafood like tuna and mahi mahi, per Bloomberg.

  • "Fiji Airways isn’t doing any commercial flights at the current time so we’re going up on a cargo run," Lorraine Mar, head of the Fiji Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee, said.
  • Jamaican sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the favorite for the women's 100 meters race, is making a more than 8,000-mile journey to Tokyo, traveling from Kingston to Miami, then on to London to catch a connecting flight bound for Tokyo.
  • The Brazilian delegation — a group of almost 300 athletes — had to snag last-minute flights on Deutsche Lufthansa AG after its original carrier, Air Canada, canceled flights that would have taken the team via Toronto.

Of note: Athletes' training schedules are also out of whack due to the pandemic, and many athletes have not been able to train in locations they would have normally otherwise.

  • "We normally have at least 90 days to get to know the conditions, and now we’ll have only eight," Argentine sailor Santiago Lange told Bloomberg. "Those eight days for our particular sport are not enough."

The bottom line: "We usually think of the race," Selemon Barega, an Ethiopian long-distance runner who competes primarily in the 5,000 meters, said. "But now the fear of the virus is also running in our minds."

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