Japan is set to allow up to 10,000 spectators to attend sporting events when the existing state-of-emergency measures come to an end, raising the prospect of fans featuring at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Tokyo and some other parts of Japan remain under a state of emergency imposed in late April. The Japanese Government is due to decide this week whether to lift it, as planned, on Sunday (June 20).
Yasutoshi Nishimura, Japan’s Economy Minister and the elected official in charge of the country’s COVID-19 response, announced plans for a change in the cap in attendances at sporting events today.
According to Kyodo News, Nishimura said the Government plans to limit spectators to 10,000 or 50 per cent of the venue’s capacity, whichever is lowest, in areas where the state of emergency has been lifted.
This cap would reportedly be in place during July and August.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games are due to take place from July 23 to August 8.
Under the existing guidelines, a maximum of 5,000 people or 50 percent of a venue’s capacity can attend sporting events – whatever is highest.
The new cap is expected to be approved later today.
A decision on whether domestic spectators could be able to attend Tokyo 2020 is due to be made at the end of the month.
Foreign fans have already been banned.
A poll by Japanese broadcaster NHK has seen a mixed response from members of the public over whether spectators should be able to watch events at the Games.
A total of 32 per cent responded to the survey by suggesting attendance should be limited at the Games, while 29 per cent said the Games should be held behind closed doors.
The poll also found 31 per cent of respondents were in favour of cancelling the Games, while three per cent supported holding the event as originally planned with no cap on spectators.
While the survey is likely to be viewed enthusiastically by Tokyo 2020, doubts were expressed by respondents over measures taken by organisers and the Japanese Government to control possible COVID-19 infections at the Games.
A total of 42 per cent said they were “not very convinced” over the COVID-19 countermeasures, with 27 per cent “not convinced at all”.
This is compared with 23 per cent who are “somewhat convinced” and two per cent who are “very convinced”.
The third and final versions of the playbooks which outline coronavirus countermeasures stakeholders are expected to adhere to during the event were published yesterday by organisers.
More than 80 per cent of athletes set to compete at the Games have either been vaccinated against COVID-19 or are “in the process” of being inoculated, according to the latest IOC estimate.
Up to 10,000 domestic fans will be able to attend events at the delayed Olympic Games in Tokyo after organisers confirmed spectator caps for the event amid COVID-19 concerns.
Capacity will be set at 50 per cent for all venues at the Games, and 10,000 fans will be permitted providing it does not exceed that limit.
Organisers have warned, however, that further restrictions could be placed on spectator numbers if any other measures or a state of emergency is introduced because of the coronavirus crisis at any time after July 12.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the Olympics could still take place without fans if the COVID-19 situation in the host country worsens.
Tokyo and other prefectures are under “quasi-emergency” status until July 11 after the tougher state of emergency was lifted yesterday.
International spectators have already been barred from attending the Games, set to open on July 23.
The announcement following a five-party meeting between the Japanese Government, Tokyo 2020, the International Olympic Committee, International Paralympic Committee and Tokyo Metropolitan Government, comes despite health officials and experts calling for the Games to be held behind closed doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But it also clarifies the last remaining uncertainty surrounding the Games, which organisers are pressing ahead with holding in the face of public opposition and criticism from those concerned the Olympics will turn into a “super-spreader” event.
Fans have been told to wear masks at all time, refrain from shouting and cheering and travel directly to and from venues under strict rules designed to reduce the risk of infection.
Tokyo 2020 chief executive Toshirō Mutō appeared to rule out spectators having to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test or vaccination to be able to attend the Games, claiming it would be “problematic”.
Having proof of a COVID-19 vaccination was a mandatory rule for fans to be granted entry into the Puskás Aréna in Budapest for matches at the pan-continental UEFA European Championship.
Tokyo 2020 officials also confirmed they would hold a lottery of existing ticket holders following the decision to allow fans to attend.
About 4.5 million tickets had been sold to Japanese residents before some were returned after the Games were postponed by a year.
The International Olympic Committee has claimed more than 80 per cent of people inside the Athletes’ Village will either have been vaccinated or be in the process of inoculation in time for the Games.
Case numbers in Japan have steadily declined in recent weeks but there remain concerns over tens of thousands of people arriving in the country for the Games.
Almost 16 per cent of the Japanese population has received at least one dose of a vaccine, but only six per cent has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.