AIPS / LAUSANNE: The challenges facing the media in preparing to cover the Tokyo 2020 – if, of course, they even take place – have been set out by Lucia Montanarella, the head of Games media operations for the International Olympic Committee.

Montanarella was addressing a ‘Let’s talk about Tokyo’ symposium organised by AIPS, the international sports journalists’ opinion.

She said: “We are working with the Japanese authorities and World Health Organization to run the safest Olympic Games possible. When it comes to media it is clear that these Games are going to be very different.

“Movement restrictions will take place for the safety of Japanese people, athletes, and everyone who is accredited for the event, not with the purpose of limiting the press, of course, but to ensure the safest Games.

“We redesigned the venues and all the press areas had been adjusted for the requirements of physical distancing: two metres from athletes and one metre from the rest of the stakeholders. By applying these restrictions, we obviously lost an enormous capacity of media positions, especially for photographers.”

On February 4, a playbook with all the regulations and restrictions for the accredited press will be presented by IOC. On February 10, an online briefing with IOC members and the organising commitee will take place to discuss these measures.

Part of the challenges is understanding the number of effective journalists that will be travelling, compared with the number who requested accreditation.

Montanarella said: “It’s very important that before February 19 we get confirmation that the accredited intends to travel, in order to understand the full number of media representatives that will be in Tokyo.

“We felt that we needed a real crystal ball to figure out how the world would be in 15 months. We created four different scenarios, one that had travel restrictions, clusters, to one where the pandemic was nearly gone.

“The present scenario is very much like one of those that we’d created, with the pandemic still among us, and some countries being able to contain it, some not. We are in that scenario right now. We are not in the same situation of last year.

“Sports events are taking place, athletes are training and competing, but we know that we are facing a huge challenge, that is to create a bubble for all athletes.

“One thing is to create a bubble for 200 athletes in just one sport, and a very different thing is to create a bubble for thousands of athletes of different sports, the ones that will be inside the Olympic village.”

Montanarella then warned: “It’s practically impossible to create a bubble including the media, because they will not be inside the Olympic Village but will be staying in different hotels.

“We are doing whatever we can to make sure that whoever wants to travel to Tokyo will cover the Games but there are some guidelines that you must follow before, during, and after the event in terms of testing and sanitary measures. Those days in which everyone decided what event to attend will not be possible.”