Domestic fans will be allowed to attend events when the Tokyo Olympic Games open on July 23, the organizing committee and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced on Monday.
Organizers said venues could be filled to 50% capacity — up to a maximum of 10,000 fans. The decision came after an online conference involving the so-called “five parties”; the local organizers, the IOC, the International Paralympic Committee, the Japanese government and the government of metropolitan Tokyo.
Organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto warned that, while officials hoped to be able to fill venues to 50% capacity, the coronavirus pandemic could force a change in plans.
“We need to be very flexible. If there is any abrupt change in the situation, we will hold five-party meetings again to make other decisions,” Hashimoto said. “If there is an announcement of a state of emergency during the games, all the options like no-spectator games will be examined.”
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike also stressed before the meeting that the plan to allow spectators to attend was very much subject to change.
“Under this COVID-19 pandemic, people in Tokyo, people in Japan, are feeling very uneasy. We have concerns and the experts are also making recommendations about the risk of spreading the infection,” Koike said. “If there should be a major change in the sanitary situation, or infection situation, we need to revisit this matter among ourselves and we may need to consider the option of having no spectators in the venues.”
Officials said fans would have to follow strict rules, including wearing masks and refraining from cheering. They are also under instructions to return home immediately after attending any event.
Monday’s decision ran contrary to the recommendation of Japan’s top medical adviser, Dr. Shigeru Omi, who stated last week that he would be more comfortable with the Olympics being held without fans. Omi had previously described the idea of going ahead with the Games despite the pandemic as “abnormal”.
Organizers say Japanese residents hold as many as 3.7 million tickets for the Olympics. Foreign spectators are banned from attending.
Japan’s vaccination program is just starting to gain momentum, with only about 6.5% of the population fully vaccinated, and 16.5% having had at least one shot, according to figures from the prime minister’s office.
pfd/jcs (AP, dpa, Reuters)