Tokyo Olympic Games organisers have been advised to hold the event behind closed doors by the country’s top public health official, but are still looking at ways to allow some spectators in.
A final decision on spectators has been promised by the end of the month, with overseas fans told in April to stay away amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Representatives of the Tokyo 2020 organising committee met with Dr Shigeru Omi, the Japanese government’s chief Covid-19 adviser, on Friday, and his message to them was clear.
“The recommendations from Dr Omi have indicated that ideally the best way is to hold the Games is without spectators, that was his recommendation, and that the best way to avoid expanding the risk of further infections was to hold the Games without any spectators,” Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto said at a briefing.
She said though that he had also made recommendations on how to proceed if organisers pressed ahead with plans to admit spectators, and pointed out that the government does currently allow up to 10,000 fans or 50 per cent capacity at sports events, whichever is lowest.
“From the very beginning the government has demonstrated its policy,” she said.
“Based on that standard we would like to make our decision and there is no change in my stance – so 50 per cent, 10,000 spectators, and also stricter conditions for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games are required.
“Based on such a situation we would like to have a thorough discussion to reach a decision.
“The situation changes minute by minute, and with such changes we need to be prepared to not accept spectators.
“We will endeavour to have people to enjoy the Games on site but if still the circumstances are very challenging, then in that case we may be advised to make a very difficult decision of not welcoming any spectators at the very last minute. But until that very last minute, we will continue doing our best.”
The next five-party meeting – involving representatives from Tokyo 2020, the International Olympic and Paralympic Committees, the Tokyo metropolitan government and national government – is due to take place on Monday, Hashimoto said.
She added that one countermeasure might be to urge spectators to go immediately home after attending an event, rather than stop off at a bar or restaurant.
“Protecting the lives of the people of Japan is the highest priority. The health of the people (of Japan) and also the visitors’ health – I need to protect them,” she said.
“How we can operate the Games to that end is what I always need to think about.”
Hashimoto pointed out that less than a third of those originally set to come to Japan from overseas – athletes, officials, sponsors and media – would now be coming.
All Games participants will be subject to strict ‘playbooks’ governing their movements and behaviour before and after their arrival in Japan.
The state of emergency in Tokyo is due to end on Sunday, Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga said earlier this week.