Japan’s government is reportedly leaning towards banning all overseas spectators for the Olympics and Paralympics, with a decision to be confirmed by the end of March.
Seiko Hashimoto, the head of the Tokyo 2020 organising committee, said on Wednesday that she hopes the decision on foreign fans will be reached by March 25, by the time the Olympic torch relay begins. Confirmation over capacity of each venue will then be determined by the end of April. The Mainichi newspaper earlier reported the government is planning to ban overseas spectators due to worries they would spread coronavirus, citing multiple unnamed sources.
Tokyo officials have been modelling multiple scenarios based on varying numbers of spectators, but Hashimoto said there were no discussions about holding the event entirely behind closed doors after a meeting with International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach and other senior figures.
“The situation is tough both in and outside Japan,” Hashimoto said. “It would not be good if [overseas spectators’] entry stirred worry among the Japanese people.
“Regarding mutant strains [of coronavirus] that’s something we need to thoroughly think of. As long as there is anxiety we need to make sure safety and security is going to be maintained.”
While coronavirus infection numbers are low in Japan compared to many other countries and continue to fall, the greater Tokyo metropolitan area remains in a state of emergency, with restrictions in place for spectator numbers for big sporting and cultural events, as well as closing times for bars and restaurants. The country remains closed to non-resident foreigners.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the government is considering a two-week extension of Tokyo’s state of emergency. So far, fewer than 8000 people have died of coronavirus in Japan.
A Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper poll showed that, if the Games are to go ahead as scheduled, 91 per cent of people in Japan want spectators kept to a minimum or not allowed at all. Around 4.5 million tickets for July’s Olympics have been sold, plus close to one million for the Paralympics, which begin in late August.
Meanwhile, Olympics organisers have appointed 12 women to the committee’s executive board, which will now have 19 women among its expanded group of 45 members, up from 35. Former head Yoshiro Mori had resigned after derogatory comments that women talk too much.
The Telegraph, London