How Did Technology Help the Olympic Games Cope With Covid-19?

How Did Technology Help the Olympic Games Cope With Covid-19?

The Olympic games commenced with a marching band and a parade of athletes in an almost vacant National Stadium due to the spike in Covid cases a few days prior to the opening ceremony. Even with no spectators in attendance, hosting the games has caused much worry for Japanese residents, who mainly did not support hosting the games due to the country’s state of emergency.

The Olympics ended just as it began – rows of empty seats, albeit the flashy and magical show of lights forming the five Olympic rings.

Although Tokyo has held several sporting events in the midst of the pandemic, the Olympic Games was in a different league – being the most prominent podium in global sports, participated by more than 200 countries, promoting peace and unity within the international community.

Tremendous amounts of challenges throughout 2020 brought significant expenditure to the games, and the Olympics organisers could not afford to risk another delay. Reports showed an increase of $2.77Bn worth of expenses in the Olympics budget, which was triggered by the measures imposed to prevent and control the spread of the virus for the whole duration of the event. The anxious anticipation of the possible surge remains in the coming weeks following the games’ closing ceremony.

Despite the measures undertaken, the Olympic organisers had several reports of cases. Several athletes regrettably had to forfeit due to contracting the virus. However, the dramas of the competition diverted most of the viewers’ attention from the continuous rise of daily cases.

Notably, this was anticipated by the government adviser Shigeru Omi who forecasted that Covid-19 daily cases might rise to a record of 3,000 in the first week of August or by the closing ceremony of the Olympics. This projected statistic was more than double Tokyo’s seven-day average at 1,180 at the start of the Olympics. Experts say, however, that it may be too soon to tell.

This amount of information has naturally caused apprehensions to the residents. What could have been a wonderful venue to unify countries through sports caused anxious anticipation of a possible Covid outbreak.

Cancel Tokyo Olympics

Emerging Resilience Among Athletes

Japan had fallen victim to criticism over slow-paced vaccinations, increasing infections in the Olympic village, Japan’s state-of-emergency declaration, and the high risk of the Delta variant spreading. Yet, regardless of the dangers and negative commentary, the games went forth from start to finish.

The 2020 Olympic motto was “United by Emotion.” This “emotion” may refer to the collective global distress brought on by the pandemic, or the hope of the world slowly getting back to a version of normality. This was the first moment that the entire world came together.

In spite of being geared to a positive stance, it’s not hard to notice how athletes were challenged by these strange challenges in their Olympic experience.

You can’t imagine the number of stern measures and restrictions this gigantic event had to undertake with all of the preparations. Naturally, the athletes went above their usual routines to comply with such limits, albeit with the continuous spike of cases.

The “Playbook” provides for the collective game plan to ensure safety not just for the participants but for the people of Tokyo. The “Playbook” outlines the athletes’ guide for safety rules from moments before they leave their country of origin, upon entering Japan, and leaving Japan. Consequences and disciplinary actions will continue to be subjected to athletes who deliberately refuse the rules. For example, those who had intentionally declined to take a test when requested were expelled from the Games.

Whether these measures were effective or not is a question yet to be answered. Reports say that it may be too soon to tell.

However, amidst the daily records of rising cases, the infection within the village was kept relatively low compared to the situation outside the village. This was attributed to the regular monitoring, mass testing, and high vaccination coverage inside the village.


Monitoring and Testing of Athletes: The Role of Technology

Technology played an essential role for athletes for their health reporting and contact tracing throughout the games—organisers of the games required each athlete to download two applications to attain timely and accurate monitoring.

In this regard, the protection of data privacy and confidentiality must be upheld by making sure that personal and health data gathered were solely used for the purpose intended – to monitor athletes’ health, vaccination status, and testing.

The “Playbook” Guidelines – which covers both the Olympics & Paralympics, required every athlete and visitor to download two mobile applications: (1) the OCHA – Checking and Health Report, which supports infection prevention through daily health reporting; and (2) the COCOA or the Contact Confirming App, which enables the user to receive notifications about possible contact with someone infected with Covid-2019.

With the rules of the Personal Information Protection Law in Japan in place, a privacy policy was prepared to maintain the privacy of every athlete’s personal information. For COCOA, in particular, the application ensured anonymity through the use of short-range communication (Bluetooth) function on Smartphones and the Exposure Notification framework developed by Google and Apple. Furthermore, the user’s name, phone number, or email address is not required to identify the said application.

Technology further aided in the athlete’s regular testing. Daily schedules of testing were disseminated via a notification sent to athletes through the aforementioned apps. In addition, any positive results were digitally communicated with the assistance of designated Covid-19 Liaison Officers (CLO). Persons with close contact to the athlete who has tested positive were then traced through COCOA.

These new technologies are available to organisations, event coordinators, and governments that are looking to adopt similar practices. Among many digital platforms, Q-Link is a software as a service, point of care management platform that provides a safe space for data exchanges across organisations, helping integrate health data anonymously in this age of contactless interactions. Further, the Q-Link digital health technology platform allows governments to provide a secure way to monitor the reopening of borders. As we slowly get back to some version of normal, contactless measures must still be practised, more so in large scale events like the Olympics.


Adaptability In The Middle Of Adversity

Whilst there may still be much uncertainty, it’s undeniable that technological advancements have been vital to athletes and organisers, enabling the games to go on as planned.

Experience from other large sports events over the past year, such as the USA’s NBA games and the recent Euro 2020 soccer tournament, showed that countermeasures such as testing might not be enough. However, with the rapid evolution in technology, we can only hope that Tokyo 2020 will not be remembered as Covid Games but the Olympic Games that showcased worldwide resiliency.

With the Paralympics starting on the 24th of August, we can only hope this is not the case.

If you would like to learn more about the Q-Link point of care management platform, please get in contact with us via the contact form below.


Other articles you may like

Share this story...

Share this story...

Learn more:

To learn more about how Q Services can help your organisation, get in touch via the contact form:

Go to Top