The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) has launched a special project to assist Australian athletes manage the challenges of Games qualification, Team assembly, competing and returning from next year’s Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
The AOC’s Project Wagasa*, (Japanese for umbrella) is providing guidance to its Member Sports and their athletes, encompassing qualifying events, overseas competitions, pre-Games training camps as well as competing in and returning from Tokyo.
Matt Carroll says the AOC has extended its usual remit to provide an overall umbrella plan that will assist athletes safely negotiate the qualification period well before the Australian Team assembles for Japan next year.
“Our job is to ensure the sports can qualify their athletes with least amount of logistical difficulty and assemble the Australian Team next year to have their Olympic moment. The Games are on and we are going to fulfil our promise. In achieving that goal, the safety of athletes and officials is paramount.”
“This is a huge project – factoring in the difficulties of travelling from Australia, safely competing and then returning home post-competition. All of this in the face of changing global travel restrictions, quarantine arrangements, event uncertainty and other variables.”
“While sports have responsibility for preparing athletes in the pre-Games period, the liaison and advice from the Project Wagasa team is critical in assisting decision making and managing the risk. To that end, we are working closely with every sport, one-on-one to understand and deliver on their needs.”
The project includes the qualification and pre-Games competitions for the 2022 Beijing Winter Games.
“For us to undertake this work we are very well supported by Federal and State Government departments and agencies. It is a Team Australia effort for which our sports and athletes are greatly appreciative,” Mr Carroll said.
To support the Project, the AOC has announced a Partnership with health specialists Aspen Medical to provide a range of specialist services to assist in the process.
AOC Chief Executive Officer Matt Carroll welcomed the Partnership with Aspen Medical.
“Aspen Medical brings a wealth of expertise and experience in this critical space. They will work with the Project Wagasa team to make sure we leave no stone unturned. Aspen Medical understands the challenges we face and we couldn’t ask for a better partner to help meet those challenges.”
Glenn Keys AO, Executive Chairman, Aspen Medical says “Our Olympic athletes have trained hard for this goal and we are proud to have been chosen by the AOC to ensure they can compete safely in Tokyo and Beijing.”
“As our Aspen Medical motto states - Wherever we are needed continues to be employed throughout all aspects of supporting Australian citizens,” Mr Keys said.
This work will complement and harmonise with existing documentation developed by Tokyo 2020 Team Medical Director, and AIS Medical Director Dr David Hughes to assist athletes return to international competition.
Chef de Mission for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Team, Ian Chesterman says the message he has received from many athletes and high-performance officials over recent months is that participant safety is of the upmost importance.
“The AOC has moved to be very proactive to be able to provide the best possible advice and safety net for our athletes and support staff as we prepare for the Games, and at the Games.”
“I know that the IOC and the Tokyo organisers also share our commitment to provide a safe environment for all.
“We recognise that this continues to be a challenging time for our athletes, and with the impacts of COVID around the world there’s particular uncertainty for those looking to attend qualification events and other competitions. So, we are on the front foot to provide the very best support and solutions the lead up and at the Games.
“We’re looking to take a Team of around 480 athletes across 37 sports to Tokyo - likely to be the third biggest team at the Games, only behind Japan and the USA.
“This is a big job and having the expertise of Aspen Medical behind us is massive help. Every athlete is important and we will do whatever we can for them to realise their Olympic dreams.
“We also acknowledge the very promising news regarding vaccines and rapid testing technologies, nevertheless we are working on more conservative assumptions, so nothing is left to chance.”
The IOC and Tokyo 2020 have now issued guidelines for the entry and exit of athletes from the Games following last week’s IOC Executive Board Meeting.
“While there is more detail to follow, we now know that the IOC and the Organisers are looking to minimise the numbers in the Olympic Village at any one time and have issued guidelines that will see all countries effectively adopting a fly-in, fly-out model for athletes and support staff.
“There’s a lot still to be worked through with further information to follow and this will all be factored into the ongoing work with Project Wagasa,” Mr Chesterman said.
The AOC has been communicating to sports, athletes and officials via one-on-one meetings with sports, on-line forums for sport officials and athletes, regular written updates to athletes and officials from Chef de Mission Ian Chesterman, and monthly newsletters to sports and officials.
Key activities of the Project Wagasa Team since it was formed in August include:
• Close liaison and communication protocols with relevant Federal Government agencies and state government agencies.
• Detailed one-on-one discussions with all Olympic sports on their specific needs.
• Creating a comprehensive snapshot of the plans and movement of athletes seeking qualification to compete in Tokyo.
• Constant ongoing communication with sports and athletes with accurate, relevant information when it becomes known.
• The engagement of medical services company Aspen Medical to provide expert bio-security advice.
• Observance of key decision-making milestones for the Tokyo Organising Committee (TOCOG) and the International Olympic Committee
Project Wagasa has four phases:
1. Qualifying events, test events and training (now – June 2021)
2. Pre-Games training camps (June – early July 2021)
3. Assembling the Australian Olympic Team (July 2021)
4. Returning Home (August 2021)
The Project Wagasa initiative has been welcomed by Rowing Australia which is negotiating the complex challenges of qualifying athletes for the Games as well as shipping and transporting boats to competition.
Rowing Australia CEO Ian Robson says “The Rowing Australia high-performance team has always enjoyed a close working relationship with the AOC. However, as we prepare for the postponed Tokyo Olympic Games, our engagement with the AOC and the Project Wagasa group has involved a more detailed and regular approach than previous Games.
“We are grateful for the work the AOC has been doing, above and beyond the norm, in assisting and supporting us in our planning and preparation in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games,” Mr Robson said.
ASPEN MEDICAL PARTNERSHIP
Aspen Medical will assist in
• Checklists to assist National Federations risk-assess attending international events
• Protocols to minimise COVID transmissions risk attending events, training, competing and transit
• Assistance in creation of an Olympic Quarantine solution conforming with government requirements
• Protocols to minimise COVID transmission at Pre-Games Training Camps and mustering locations to travel to the Games to ensure all test negative on arrival
• Protocols to minimise COVID transmission for the Olympic Team when in transit to/from the Games
Project Wagasa also incorporates the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games as Australia’s winter athletes also face complications in their qualification and training regimes.
Australian winter athletes are currently seeking to attend qualifying events overseas where similar uncertainty exists.
*Wagasa is a Japanese word which means “Japanese umbrella”. Pronounced Wah-Gar-sar