Olympic Games, hand in hand with technology to stop the pandemic


Contact tracing apps, biometric identification cameras, autonomous vehicles, and robots seek to minimize the impact of Covid-19 among athletes and the community participating in the Olympic feat that is about to begin in Tokyo

Hitoshi Oshitani, a renowned virologist at the Tohoku University School of Medicine in Japan, said a year ago that the only way to contain a virus was to learn to coexist with it. The Olympic Games that will begin in a few days in Tokyo seek to materialize these words with a litmus test in front of the fatigued eyes of the world due to the impact of Covid-19.

The Olympic party where 11 thousand 90 athletes from around the world will participate seeks to underline the strategy that Japan has followed against the coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic: extreme measures but without forced confinement. The Asian giant has accumulated around 15 thousand deaths related to Covid-19, a relatively low number that has had waves of spikes in cases.

Many of the strategies that have been followed since the beginning of the pandemic are not those that have been used primarily in the Western world. An example of this is remote work. According to data from the Japan Productivity Center ( JPC ), teleworking increased by less than 20%, while in the United States the figure rose to almost 50%. The third richest nation in the world has a great technological deployment, but the interpersonal interactions at the work level and the philosophy around productivity are still rooted in a tradition that cannot be manifested via Zoom; However, other tools were essential to keep the pandemic at the limit: the use of a mask and a healthy distance they are part of the cultural codes of respect and prevention, before this pandemic.

The follow-up of cases, via mobile applications, had a strong impact and this strategy is one of the strongest cards for the follow-up of potential outbreaks in the Olympic Games. COCOA (Covid-19 Contact Confirming) is one of the mandatory download apps to monitor the status of athletes and related personnel, who will be continuously evaluated, in fact, the residents of the Olympic Village will undergo Covid-19 tests every day and the GPS of their phones will activate an alert in case someone is detected with the virus. The International Olympic Committee has published precise manuals so that visitors know the type of applications and questionnaires they must attend.

In Japan, various disinfection strategies against the virus also emerged that will reinforce hygiene in the spaces where athletes develop, such is the case of its lamp modules that emit ultraviolet light around a wavelength of 222 nanometers, disinfecting spaces of around four square meters in a couple of minutes, ideal for frequently used public facilities such as bathrooms and hallways.

For experts, one of the places of greatest concern is the food areas, since outbreaks in restaurants, even with plastic barriers, have been maintained throughout the world. It seeks to reduce the impact with the locals as much as possible, that is why a series of autonomous vehicles circulate inside the Olympic village, in addition to augmented reality experiences have been designed so that athletes who want to see events where they do not participate, they can live immersive experiences, but without being present.

The kings of robotics

Although they will not be able to show all their charm to the spectators, which will be prohibited in the competitions, the robots will continue to help in different tasks. The T-TR2 telepresence robot, equipped with a camera on top of a life-size video screen, will allow people to communicate from remote locations, while field support robots will be in charge of retrieving objects, such as discs and javelins. , at track events. To lift heavier objects, the Olympic staff will use exoskeletons that reduce the weight of the load by 30%. Love encounters will also have to be virtual, since the distribution of condoms, common in the Olympic Games since the late eighties, will be limited in this edition.

Miraitowa and Someity, the pet robots, gained skills with the pandemic because although they will not be able to directly shake the athletes, they added new skills to come into contact with them. The year of waiting served their creators to make them more realistic: they were covered with a flexible 3D printed material, they show eye movements to make them quickly enter into visual contact with whoever is in front of them and they have a network of sensors to control each detail one of its joints. In the midst of the pandemic, the robotics market in Japan has boomed and according to estimates by the industry ministry, it is expected to grow even more, multiplying by five in a decade.

The network of the security camera system deployed in the more than 40 sites where there will be competitions, uses artificial intelligence for biometric recognition that will facilitate access and registration of athletes, who must leave the country within two days after their events. It is expected that 80% of the athletes will be vaccinated, but the disqualification will be immediately after detection of a contagion.

The prefectures surrounding Tokyo will have mobility restrictions a couple of weeks after the games conclude to prevent some of the detected cases from permeating outbreaks beyond the borders of the big city.

Practically total vaccination has been achieved for all the staff of the International Olympic Committee and 80% of the accredited press. Another strategy was to increase the rate of vaccination of the population in a dizzying way. The figure of one million vaccines administered per day was reached at the end of last month, but the vaccination rate remains low (20. 41% of the population, according to data from the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University) and the arrival of Delta, most likely variant propagation, still alert.

Of supercomputers and other things

To assess the risks, the creation of algorithms is essential. The RIKEN Research Institute (which brings together 3,000 scientists from seven universities) in collaboration with Fujitsu, a global Japanese company in the ICT sector, developed the Fugaku supercomputer. This computational monster will be one of the most powerful tools with its models of virus spread. Fugaku is capable of offering highly accurate simulations of the virus spreading the power of fluid particles that can move in the air with different levels of risk, depending on the projection medium: talking, coughing, singing, screaming. This information is combined with different variables, such as the place, the temperature, and the group of people.

The results of this computer that began to work more than a year ago, were those that verified the effectiveness of the mask and to date it continues to perform other important functions related to the pandemic, such as the identification of possible treatments against Covid-19, estimating the power of interaction with SARs-CoV-2 proteins.

Official figures recognize that the government of Japan has invested more than 15 billion dollars in the Olympic and Paralympic Games, in addition to another five billion, as a result of private initiatives. The Tokyo Olympic Stadium alone cost 1.4 billion dollars. The stakes are high, but 83% of the Japanese were opposed to the Olympic feat. Half thought the Olympics should have been postponed, while the other half considered a definitive cancellation.

Just a couple of months ago, a group of 6,000 Tokyo doctors asked for the games to be canceled due to the impossibility of their health system being able to handle the influx of patients in the face of an outbreak. The specialists referred to the importance that Tokyo has had in the spread of the different waves with which the virus has spread in Japan. Despite opposition from the Japanese, the Olympic Games continued their course, they are about to open and will become one of the most remembered editions in the history of the Olympics.

Eleven thousand ninety athletes will compete in the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

15 thousand deaths related to Covid-19 have been reported in Japan.

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