Tokyo test events continue with track cycling, mixed zone scrapped

(Reuters)— Tokyo Olympic test events continued with track cycling on Sunday but planned in-person rider interviews were changed to an online format, as a worsening coronavirus situation in Japan forces organisers to adjust their programmes.

Sunday’s test event was to have been the first since the postponement of the Summer Games to have a mixed zone where journalists interview athletes after their events.

Instead, four riders were selected to appear on an online meeting platform at the end of the day while the barriers for the mixed zone were set up but went unused.

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto, herself a former Olympic track cyclist, said organisers would have to take advantage of technology amid the pandemic.

“With the test events this time there are clear issues that have emerged. I think from now we will start working on these issues one by one with great care,” she told reporters.

Organisers are facing mounting challenges as Japan battles a resurgence in coronavirus infections less than three months before the Games are scheduled to start.

Japan on Friday declared a COVID-19 state of emergency for Tokyo and three other areas to run from Sunday to May 11 in a bid to contain the pandemic.

Separately, organisers have decided to hold an athletics test event on May 9 without spectators. It would have been the first time with spectators in the stands since test events were restarted this month in an important dress rehearsal of COVID-19 countermeasures ahead of the Games.

Sunday’s test event featured Japanese cyclists competing in the individual and team sprint, keirin, team pursuit, omnium and madison.

No spectators or international riders were present.

The Tokyo Olympics, delayed by a year because of the pandemic, are scheduled to open on July 23.