The International Olympic Committee has amended its “Faster, Higher, Stronger” motto to include the word ‘Together’, highlighting the need for solidarity during difficult times such as the COVID-19 pandemic. At this year’s 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo, finding and sustaining the proper balance of safety and togetherness has never been more challenging.
Dr. Babak Shadgan, a Sports Physician, Assistant Professor with the UBC Department of Orthopaedics, and President of the United World Wrestling Medical Commission, has served as a Medical Officer and Medical Director of Wrestling Competitions since the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Tokyo 2020 will be Dr. Shadgan’s 5th Olympics. This year, in addition to overseeing the prevention and management of sports injuries and doping control, Dr. Shadgan and his team are responsible for managing COVID-19 screening and regular daily examinations.
The worldwide outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) created an unprecedented challenge for international events since early 2020. For the first time in its modern history, the Games are being held after a one-year delay, and are still under special considerations and organization. Obligatory COVID-19 countermeasures have been put in place to create a safe environment for all participants and establish additional layers of protection for the residents of Japan. Athletes, support personnel, officials, technical officers and organizing committee members, are responsible for adhering to a set of regulations created by the International Olympic Committee and the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee.
“We expect to face higher rates and severity of injuries during Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games” says Dr. Shadgan. Following the COVID-19 pandemic and global lock downs in March 2020, most athletes preparing to participate in the 2020 Games were grounded. Further to breaking the training regimens of athletes for several months, the post-COVID stresses will likely affect the fitness and preparation of athletes who will be competing this year. Managing this unique situation will be another new significant challenge for Dr. Shadgan and his medical team in Tokyo.
Those flying to Tokyo will be required to take two COVID-19 tests on two separate days within 96 hours of departure and provide proof of negative results upon arrival. In addition, upon arrival in Tokyo, travellers will also be required to take a quantitative saliva antigen COVID-19 test. Those with negative results will be allowed to proceed to the Olympic Village or their residences. Physical distancing and proper hygiene measures, including wearing a face mask and social distancing, must be followed by everyone while in Japan. Furthermore, daily testing will be implemented to minimize the risk of undetected positive cases.
“Tokyo 2020 will be the most challenging Olympic Games to date” says Dr. Shadgan. “I am very excited and fully prepared to be part of this historic event.”