Tokyo Olympics is a trip into the unknown for German athletes

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Berlin, July 15 (IANS) The Tokyo Olympic Games is turning into a journey into the unknown for German athletes.

“We don’t know what we can expect as it seems a trip into the unknown,” six-time dressage (equestrian) Olympic champion Isabell Werth said.

The 51-year-old spoke about “a great anticipation” among all 434 German athletes but expressed concern due to the circumstances caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, reports Xinhua.

Travel restrictions and strict hygiene measures come along with challenging border controls. In addition, the performance level of competitors seems uncertain as several pre-Olympic competitions were canceled or conducted with a minimum of participants.

Coaching staff travelling to Japan in advance of the majority of the German team reported about several hours they had to spend at the Tokyo airport to get through entry formalities.

Dressage head coach Monica Theodorescu spoke about nearly eight hours of standby time. Others spoke of up to 13 hours.

Werth spoke about the concerns among Japan’s population due to thousands of foreign athletes and coaches entering the country. “I hope we are welcomed warmly and don’t feel uncomfortable.”

Werth said she hopes not to receive her “return ticket for the plane already when arriving.”

While most of the team’s members stay in the Olympic village, the equestrian squad is located in a hotel near their competition venue.

Athletes, their spouses, officials, and coaches enter a sort of bubble and are not allowed to use public transport or taxis.

The German equestrian squad hired cars, including drivers staying in the same hotel until the team’s departure. “Many things we have to sort out when in Japan. At present, it appears like driving by sight,” said Dennis Peeler, an official of the German equestrian association.

With sightseeing, visits to restaurants and other competitions prohibited, German coaches have prepared for unusual entertainment programs.

While coach Theodorescu recommended “two thick books,” show-jumping coach Otto Becker and eventing coach Hans Melzer plan to introduce card games “most of the younger athletes might have never heard of.”

While Werth is to travel in a plane with the German horses placed in specially equipped containers costing up to 22,000 euros per horse, football coach Stefan Kuntz has to deal with a disappointing number of rejections by nominated players.

Clubs refused to send their best performers, and players preferred to attend their clubs’ pre-season preparations. So instead of the 22 allowed, only 18 players found their way to the Olympics.

The first German athletes (basketball, hockey, and taekwondo) will arrive this Saturday in the hermetically sealed Olympic village.

The decision of the IOC and Japanese authorities to ban spectators has caused various reactions among German athletes.

Shot-putter Christina Schwanitz hoped athletes cheer each other to create some atmosphere “as we all face a new situation.” Swimmer Marek Ulrich said no one expected the Olympics “we are used to, but to run the games without spectators is a sad thing.”

Gymnast Elisabeth Seitz said most athletes are happy that the Olympic Games are taking place. To cancel it again would have been a real shock for most athletes, she said.

–IANS

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