Olympic organisers meet on Monday and are expected to decide whether and to what extent domestic spectators will be allowed at the Tokyo Games, with health experts warning that big crowds risk fuelling a resurgence in Covid-19 infections.
Japan is moving ahead with staging the multi-billion-dollar Games, which were delayed by a year due to pandemic, despite public opposition and the warnings from health officials.
Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto has said she was eyeing a cap of 10,000 people per venue. Spectators from overseas have already been banned from the event.
Officials are separately considering allowing as many as 20,000 people to attend the opening ceremony on July 23rd as spectators, in part due to an expected increase in the number of people involved with the Games who would no longer be allowed on the field, media reported.
A final decision on domestic spectators is expected to be made at the meeting on Monday among Tokyo 2020 organisers, the International Olympic Committee, International Paralympic Committee, Japanese government and host city Tokyo.
Japan's prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, said on Monday he would not rule out holding the Summer Olympics without spectators if the capital was under a state of emergency due to Covid-19 worries.
“In the event a state of emergency was declared then we can’t rule out not having spectators,” Suga told reporters during a tour of vaccination sites in Tokyo.
Hashimoto and Tokyo 2020 chief executive Toshiro Muto are scheduled to hold a news conference after the five-party talks.
The meeting comes after some of Japan’s top health experts on Friday said that banning spectators was the least risky option for holding the Games, even as they seemed resigned to the possibility of fans in venues.
Japan’s public remains opposed to holding the Games this summer, a June 19-20th poll from Asahi News Network (ANN) found, with 65 per cent of respondents saying they wanted the event postponed again or cancelled.
Nearly 70 per cent of respondents said they thought the Games would not be held safely and securely, as advocated by the government and Olympic organisers, the poll showed.
Suga last week decided to lift a coronavirus state of emergency for Tokyo and eight other prefectures that had seen a Covid-19 resurgence.
The government kept in place lesser, “quasi-emergency” restrictions for seven of the nine prefectures, including Tokyo, that will run until July 11th, less than two weeks before the Games are set to open on July 23rd.