Japan planning to ban overseas spectators from Olympics - reports

Final decision will be made this month after talks with the IOC and other parties

Japan’s government will continue to consider whether to accept spectators from within the country. File photograph: Getty Images

Japan’s government will continue to consider whether to accept spectators from within the country. File photograph: Getty Images

 

A decision will be taken on whether overseas spectators will be able to attend the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games at the end of the month, the organising committee president Seiko Hashimoto has said.

The Mainichi newspaper reported on Wednesday that Japan’s government is planning to stop overseas spectators coming to the Olympics due to worries they will spread the coronavirus.

Hashimoto told the media she hoped to have reached a decision by March 25th, by the time of the Olympic torch relay. She added that a decision on venue capacity limits would be taken at the end of April, using current domestic capacity limits as a base.

Hashimoto held a five-party meeting with key Games stakeholders on Wednesday. The Olympics are due to start on July 23rd, having been delayed by 12 months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Hashimoto said via an interpreter: “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.

“This is a point that the Japanese government, the Tokyo metropolitan government and Tokyo 2020 will consider.

“It’s not about whether it’s difficult or not (to have overseas spectators), it’s whether it would link to the safety and security of the Games for Japanese citizens. That is the priority.

“They all want to watch the Games and safety and security needs to be maintained or it would be a burden on the mental aspect as well.”

Hashimoto said there had been no discussion on the Games taking place without any spectators, but added: “There are various circumstances we need to keep an eye on, zero spectators will be something we need to look into.

“We need to look at the overall situation before deciding on percentage rates.”

Asked whether only overseas spectators who had proof of vaccination would be admitted into the country, she said: “There was no discussion on this.”

A Yomiuri newspaper poll showed on Wednesday 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.

The poll - conducted between January 18th and February 2nd - showed 70 per cent of respondents said they were “interested in the Olympics”, but 58 per cent said they did not want them to be held this year because of fears over Covid-19.

The 58 per cent in opposition was, however, about 20 percentage points lower than earlier opinion polls.

While coronavirus infection numbers are low in Japan compared with the United States and many European countries, 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.

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