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Olympics: They qualified to compete but getting to Tokyo is another hurdle

Traveling to Tokyo in time for the Games is a logistical mess for many athletes

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People wearing protective masks walk by Tokyo Big Sight.

People wearing protective masks walk by Tokyo Big Sight, the largest convention and exhibition center in Japan where the International Broadcast Center and the Main Press Center were set for Tokyo 2020 Olympics on Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Tokyo.

Kiichiro Sato, Associated Press

Usually, phrases like “journey to the Olympics” or the “path to the Games” refer to something more abstract than literal travel. But for many athletes this year, actually traveling to Tokyo has proven a significant challenge to their Olympic dreams, Bloomberg reported.

  • Convening more than 11,000 athletes from 200 countries during a pandemic that has led to strict travel restriction has become a logistical nightmare for many, reported Fortune.

With 18 days till the Tokyo Olympics begins, athletes from remote corners of the globe have a major challenge in front of them, said The Associated Press.

Which athletes are struggling to travel to Tokyo?

Athletes around the world face logistical difficulties for their travel to Tokyo. For some, the challenges come from lack of commercial airfare opportunities. For others, the difficulty comes from their country being banned due to COVID-19 outbreaks, reported Axios.

Brazilian Olympic Committee President Paulo Wanderley Teixeira — who has been coordinating logistics for Brazil’s 300-person Olympic team — said travel changes ”demanded creativity.” The Brazilian team had tickets onboard Air Canada only to have their flights canceled, reported Bloomberg. Now, the team will fly through Europe.

  • Teixeira said that getting equipment to Tokyo has been a “true war operation,” per Fortune.

The chief executive of the Fiji Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee Lorraine Mar said travel has been a “logistical challenge,” per the AP. “Fiji Airways isn’t doing any commercial flights at the current time so we’re going up on a cargo run.”

  • Fiji is not the only South Pacific island nation facing this challenge. Other island nations have planned long flight itineraries just to get to Tokyo, said Fortune.
  • Mar says they tried to “do a milk run around the other islands to collect everyone, but it wasn’t commercially viable,” reported Fortune.

For Sri Lanka, domestic coronavirus outbreaks have made international travel difficult. Usually, the Olympic athletes would fly through Singapore to reach Tokyo, but Singapore has banned anyone with a recent history of travel in Sri Lanka from even transiting in the city-state, reported Fortune.

What other logistical challenges are Olympic athletes facing?

The travel complications do not end when athletes arrive in Tokyo. Athletes will likely face the same logistical difficulties when returning home, reported the AP.

  • Travel restrictions have also disrupted training schedules and training locations for many athletes, reported Axios. These disruptions are particularly problematic for some athletes — such as sailors — who need time on location to adjust to weather conditions.

These disruptions will likely continue to affect the outcomes of the Tokyo Games.