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World Athletics to hold Tokyo test event 11 weeks out from Olympic Games

The 2021 Continental Tour Gold series will kick off in Tokyo's Olympic Stadium in May

World Athletics (WA) announced on Friday that the first stop on the 2021 WA Continental Tour Gold series will be on May 9 at Tokyo’s Japan National Stadium, the same venue where the Olympic athletics events will be held 11 weeks later. WA launched the Continental Tour series this year, and despite the pandemic, seven of the 10 one-day events planned for 2020 were held successfully. This will likely be the biggest meet held at Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium so far, and it will act as a test event for the Games.

Testing for Tokyo 

With the Olympics just weeks after the Continental Tour Gold makes its stop in Tokyo, organizers will have the valuable opportunity to cycle through their event system and protocol to see if everything runs smoothly. The Japan National Stadium hosted a 2020 Tour Gold meet, the Seiko Golden Grand Prix, in August, but it was hardly an international competition. In the 21 events held, only two non-Japanese athletes competed.

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That meet was also held behind closed doors in an empty stadium due to COVID-19. Tokyo Organizers and the members of the IOC have said they are still hopeful that the Olympics can host spectators for all events. If that is still the plan come spring, the Tour Gold meet will give event staff the chance to put their spectator-friendly COVID-19 guidelines to the test. 

2020 Olympics
Design for the 2020 Olympic Stadium in Tokyo. Photo: Japan Sports Council

WA Continental Tour 

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WA created the Continental Tour this year to provide athletes with more chances to race outside of the Diamond League. There are gold, silver and bronze meets, all of which are held around the world. In 2020, Canadian Sage Watson raced a gold-level meet in Hungary, where she placed third in the 400m hurdles. Watson’s fellow Canadian Marco Arop also tested out the Continental Tour this season at a bronze meet in Poland, where he ran to second place in the 800m. 

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“The Continental Tour has thrived in its first year, attracting huge support from both athletes and fans, and giving us great confidence that it will go from strength to strength in the coming years,” said WA president Seb Coe. “One of our primary goals at World Athletics is to improve the competitive and earning opportunities for elite athletes around the world.” Coe went on to say the Continental Tour is doing just that with meets like the Kip Keino Classic, which will be held in Nairobi, Kenya, next September.