Tokyo Olympics to allow spectators at summer games3 min read . Updated: 21 Jun 2021, 05:47 PM IST
- Doctors had advised against crowds but organizers permit up to 10,000 fans at each event as they seek to build excitement
The Summer Olympics in Tokyo will include up to 10,000 Japanese spectators at each event, organizers said, despite advice by leading doctors that the Games would be safer without crowds.
Monday’s decision clears up the final major uncertainty about the Games ahead of the opening ceremony on July 23. Officials said in March that foreign spectators wouldn’t be permitted to travel to Japan to attend the Olympics.
Guidelines released by the International Olympic Committee and Tokyo organizers said venues could be filled up to 50% capacity, with a maximum of 10,000 spectators at each event. Plans could change if infections in Japan rise sharply, they said.
“If the situation becomes very dire, we would have to hold the Games without spectators," Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto said.
Tokyo has picked up the pace of vaccinations and rolled out strict anti-coronavirus guidelines for people taking part in the Games. A member of the Ugandan Olympic team tested positive for the virus on arrival in Japan on Saturday and was quarantined at a government facility.
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said that more than 80% of the athletes and officials staying in the Olympic Village are expected to be vaccinated, as well as close to 80% of the international media coming to Japan for the event.
Public concern about the Olympics has eased as infection rates in Japan have fallen. Recent polls by public broadcaster NHK and commercial broadcaster Fuji News Network have found opinion roughly split three ways between those wanting the Olympics to be held with spectators, those wanting the Games to go ahead without spectators, and those favoring cancellation.
More sports events globally have been held with fans recently as more people get vaccinated. The U.S. Open and PGA golf championships featured large unmasked crowds, and Hungary allowed a full house for matches at the Euro 2020 soccer tournament. However, restrictions have remained at other events in countries where vaccinations are limited or governments are more cautious.
Japan’s professional baseball and soccer leagues have been permitting crowds at half-capacity with mask mandates. Spectators are told to clap, not shout, to show their support. There have been no reports of clusters of infection originating at games.
Medical experts in Japan say the Olympics are a harder challenge, with more events happening at the same time and more spectators traveling from far away. That could increase the flow of people in public.
A panel of medical experts that advised the government on Covid-19 countermeasures recommended Friday that the Olympics be held without spectators. It said strict guidelines were needed if spectators are allowed. The organizers said they would ask spectators to travel directly to and from the venues, wear masks and not shout.
The question of whether to allow fans also affects athletes. Tennis star Novak Djokovic said recently he would reconsider his participation in the Olympics if it was to be held without spectators.
Allowing some crowds will also provide Japan with some of the $800 million in revenue that had been expected from ticket sales if stadiums were filled to capacity. Japan has spent over $10 billion on the Olympics.
About 42% of tickets have been sold for the Olympics, but for some events, sales are above 50%. The organizers said they would hold a lottery to decide which ticket holders can attend events for which more tickets have been sold than the new limit permits. People who are forced to give up their tickets will receive refunds.
The organizers don’t plan to offer more tickets for events that are under the capacity limit.
This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text
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