COVID-19 Regulations For Swimming At The Tokyo Olympics

COVID-19 Regulations For Swimming At The Tokyo Olympics

Courtesy of WOWSA, Odaiba Marine Park, Tokyo Bay, Japan.

While the sporting world gears up for the Tokyo Olympic Games, it may surprise people that each governing body has different rules and regulations for the athletes in each sport and each discipline. Perhaps contrary to public assumptions, there are sport-specific COVID-19 regulations at the Olympics. That is, the COVID-19 regulations for boxers or wrestlers are different from track and field athletes and swimmers in Tokyo. But all regulations including the FINA Open Water Swimming Rules, the Tokyo 2020 Playbooks (that govern the athletes, National Olympic Committees, International Federations, Workforce and Olympic Family, see here), and Late Athlete Replacement are subject to change.

Marathon Swimming COVID-19 Regulations:

The Sport Specific Regulations (SSR) outline how a confirmed positive COVID-19 case or a close contact is managed within the Marathon Swimming competitions on August 4th for the 25 female finalists and on August 5th for the 25 male finalists and the following technical officials at the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim:

  • A Chief Referee
  • Two Referees
  • Chief Timekeeper and two Timekeepers
  • Chief Finish Judge and two Finish Judges
  • Safety Officer for land and on the water
  • Medical Officer
  • Course Officer
  • Clerk of the Course
  • Four Turn Judges (see below)
  • Feeding Platform Supervisor
  • Starter
  • Announcer
  • Chief Recorder

The marathon swimming regulations include:

  • Athletes, team officials, and technical officials will be excluded if they are prevented from participating in the competition due to a confirmed COVID-19 positive case or after having been confirmed as a close contact.
  • After the technical meeting, no further athlete replacements will be possible. In the case an athlete cannot start, the event will proceed without that athlete. The starting positions will remain as previously ordered.
  • The FINA Technical Open Water Swimming Management Committee (which includes the top four FINA Technical Open Water Swimming Commission members, the FINA Medical Delegate, and the FINA Chief Referee) is the authoritative body that can apply the rules and regulations.
  • The decision-making group should gather within 30 minutes of any individual being notified by their COVID-19 Liaison Officer.

Pool Swimming COVID-19 Regulations:

For those Olympic 10K Marathon Swim finalists who are also competing in pool swimming events, the rules and regulations are slightly different:

While the marathon swimmers qualified in two separate events, the pool swimmers must have achieved the OQT / “A” Time. For relays, there are four athletes per relay plus an additional two relay-only athletes. For the mixed relay race a team consists of two men and two women. There are a maximum of sixteen teams in each relay event, for a total of 112 relay teams at the Tokyo Olympics.

The FINA Bureau appoints the following minimum number of officials at the swimming venues:

  • Two referees
  • One control-room supervisor
  • Four judges of stroke
  • Two starters
  • Two chief inspectors of turns
  • Sixteen inspectors of turns
  • One chief recorder
  • Two clerks of course
  • One announcer

The pool swimming regulations include:

  • Athletes, team officials, and technical officials will be excluded if they are prevented from participating in the competition due to a confirmed COVID-19 positive case or after having been confirmed as a close contact.
  • There are preliminary heats, semifinals and finals for all 50 m, 100m, and 200m events. Sixteen athletes with the best times achieved in the heats qualify for the semifinals. The eight athletes with the best times achieved in the semifinals qualify for the final.
  • There are preliminary heats and finals for all 400m, 800m, and 1500m events. The eight athletes with the best times achieved in the heats progress to the final.
  • After the technical meeting, in case an athlete cannot compete the athlete will be removed, and the heats will progress with one fewer athlete.
  • In individual events, the two highest ranked athletes who did not qualify to the next phase (17th and 18th for semifinals, or 9th and 10th for final) are designated as reserve athletes in case there are any withdrawals from the next race. The same logic will apply in the case if there are three or more athletes prevented from participating in semifinals and finals.
  • There are heats and finals for the relay events. The eight teams with the best times achieved in the heats progress to the final.
  • For each relay, the National Olympic Committee may choose to change the composition or the order of the team between the heats and finals. All athletes entered in an individual event, plus the relay-only athletes, are eligible to swim in the relays.
  • In case a National Olympic Committee cannot field a team with four athletes, the team will be removed. The team will be replaced with the highest placed team from the heats.
  • In relays, the two highest ranked teams that did not qualify to the next phase (9th and 10th for final) are designated as reserve teams in case there are any withdrawals from the next phase. The same logic will apply in the case if there are three or more teams prevented from participating in finals.
  • For the decision making, the FINA Technical Swimming Commission (TSC) is the authoritative body that can apply these rules and regulations. The FINA TSC consists of the FINA TSC Chairman, FINA TSC Vice Chairman, FINA TSC Honorary Secretary, and FINA TSC Bureau Liaison and Technical Delegate, who is the TSC Commission Chairman.
  • The decision-making group should gather as soon as practically possible, preferably within 30 minutes of a person being notified by their Covid-19 Liaison Officer.

Fundamentally, if an athlete tests positive, there is an automatic procedure (see the Olympic Playbook here) that she or he needs to follow including a retest by PCR*, isolation, close contact tracking, quarantine outside of the village or hospitalization).  If the athlete shows symptoms**, or tested positive , the same automatic protocols will apply, and the necessary steps depends on many factors.

The close contacts will be not excluded from the competition, but they have to be tested. 

In case of a false or false positive test, there are automatic protocols, which is PCR testing. 

* PCR is a polymerase chain reaction test that is performed to detect genetic material from the COVID-19 virus. The test detects the presence of a virus if the athlete is infected at the time of the test. The test could also detect fragments of virus even after the athlete is no longer infected.

** Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

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