Photo/IllutrationResidential buildings are being erected on the planned site of the Tokyo Olympic Village, seen here July 21 in the capital’s Chuo Ward. (Kazuyoshi Sako)

  • Photo/Illustraion

At least six Japanese national sport federations plan to forgo Olympic Village accommodation for their athletes during the Tokyo Summer Games.

The bombshell decision to stay in hotels or elsewhere comes less than a year before the sports extravaganza is scheduled to get under way.

An Asahi Shimbun survey found that sports entities for track and field (marathon and race walk only), baseball, road cycling, tae kwon do, handball and table tennis will find alternative accommodation.

Six other federations overseeing cycling (except road), golf, gymnastics, judo, rugby and weightlifting plan to use both the Olympic Village and separate venues.

The decisions were made with the aim of providing a stress-free environment for the athletes ahead of the competitions and putting them in closer proximity to the event venues. Another consideration involved tae kwon do athletes being able to lose weight to meet the categories in which they will fight.

Among the six sport federations that plan to avoid the Olympic Village, officials overseeing tae kwon do, track and field (marathon and race walk), baseball and road cycling plan to accommodate their athletes in hotels.

As events for the two track and field categories are slated to start early in the morning before the blazing heat sets in, the athletes want to be in a quiet environment so they can limber up in preparation for the races, officials said.

In the case of tae kwon do athletes, weight loss ahead of the competitions is a major factor. In light of this, officials are planning to accommodate them in a hotel close to the Makuhari Messe event venue in Chiba, outside Tokyo, to monitor their physical conditioning.

Table tennis and handball players are expected to stay at the National Training Center, their customary training camp site.

Among the other six sport federations with plans to use both the Olympic Village and external facilities, officials overseeing judo, weightlifting and gymnastics assume that their athletes will also be staying at the NTC.

Cyclists in track and other categories are already resident in a training camp located closer to the venue of their events than a branch of the Olympic Village in Shizuoka Prefecture.

Officials of 12 sports, including aquatics, have decided that their athletes will stay in the Olympic Village.

Rowing coaches cited the advantage of the Olympic Village in providing opportunities to interact with athletes of other sports. Archery and beach volleyball officials explained that they did not have the funds to put their athletes anywhere else except the Olympic Village.

Federations overseeing 12 other sports have yet to reach a decision on the matter.

Basketball officials, among them, said their players will basically be staying in the Olympic Village, even though it is far away from Saitama Super Arena, the venue of their events.

Thus, the officials are also weighing the option of their athletes staying in a hotel or the NTC, depending on traffic congestion, game start times and other circumstances.

More than 500 Japanese athletes, a record number, are expected to compete in the Tokyo Games. The Olympic Charter states that an Olympic Village should be provided “with the objective of bringing together all competitors, team officials and other team personnel in one place.”

The Olympic Village for the Tokyo Games is being built in the capital’s Harumi district.

NOISY AND CROWDED

Athletes housed at Olympic Villages have not always enjoyed their stays.

“Olympic Villages are stressful in many ways as compared to the hotels where I have stayed during World Championships,” said Takeshi Matsuda, a 35-year-old swimmer who stayed in Olympic Villages during the four consecutive events in Athens, Beijing, London and Rio de Janeiro. “The restaurant and the coin-operated laundry are so crowded and jammed up.”

The winner of one silver and three bronze Olympic medals added: “Even athletes from Japan, the host country, could feel at a loss if they are competing for the first time in the Games. I think athletes who are willing to get used to the life in the Olympic Village and enjoy it will be better poised to deliver results during the Games.”

Yoshinobu Miyake, a 79-year-old weightlifter who competed in four consecutive Olympics--Rome, Tokyo, Mexico and Munich--said he stayed in the Olympic Villages during all of the events except in Mexico City.

“The Olympic Villages were so noisy,” the two-time gold and one-time silver medalist said. “I was able to have a good sleep only in Mexico City.”

Miyake said he would approach his former rivals in Olympic Villages when the competitions were over and pick their brains about their training and other questions.

“At the time, the Olympic Village provided golden opportunities for gathering information,” he said. “I found it easier to make friends with others when I brought folding fans with me to give as presents.”

Mitsugi Ogata, head of training with the Japanese Olympic Committee, said the Japanese contingent at the Tokyo Olympic Village will be conveniently located close to the restaurant.

He conceded that it "will come at the cost of other athletes coming and going all the time, so there will be a question of noise."