TOKYO: Tokyo Olympics organisers will decide this month whether to allow overseas fans, the Games president said Wednesday, while the number of spectators allowed in venues will be set by April.
Tokyo 2020 chief Seiko Hashimoto told reporters that the safety of Japanese citizens “is the priority”, after holding talks with top officials from the International Olympic and Paralympic Committees, the Japanese government and the Tokyo metropolitan government.
The meeting came as a local media report claimed Japanese authorities are planning to hold the Games without overseas fans, although Hashimoto said a decision would come later this month, ideally before the delayed torch relay begins on March 25.
“We really need to think long and hard about mutant strains of the virus,” she said.
“Anxiety still remains among the voices of the citizens, and as long as there is anxiety we need to work to make sure safety and security are maintained.”
International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach warned before the meeting that organisers will “focus on the essentials of the Games”, while Olympic minister Tamayo Marukawa said afterwards that “a cautious decision is necessary”.
Bach had said last week that a decision on overseas fans was likely to come in late April or early May, but Hashimoto said Wednesday that fans, hotels and travel operators needed to know sooner.
“Overseas fans and domestic fans all want to watch the Games, but safety and security need to be maintained and ensured,” she said.
Hashimoto said that “scientific insight” will be used to decide in April how full venues can be, and that the ruling will be in line with government policies on attendance.
Tokyo is currently under a state of emergency that limits capacity at sporting events to 5,000.
The state of emergency is due to expire on March 7, but reports Wednesday said the government is likely to extend it by another two weeks, with concern about the slowing decline of infections in the capital.
Bach said any decisions about spectators will be taken in agreement with all the organising parties.
“This has to be the clear focus — to have safe, secure and fair competitions for all the athletes, because this is the core of the Olympic Games,” he said.
“In this respect, we may have to set the one or other priority. We have to be aligned in these priorities, but I do not think this is a challenge because we agree on this principle.”
Olympics organisers and Japanese officials have insisted the first Games postponed in peacetime will go ahead as scheduled from July 23.
But a surge in infections in Japan and elsewhere during winter raised doubts about the feasibility of the massive international event.
Polling in Japan shows a majority oppose holding the Games this year, and border restrictions currently bar almost all foreign arrivals.
The measures have forced the postponement of the year’s first test event, an artistic swimming qualifier.
In a bid to convince a sceptical public, organisers and officials have released virus guidelines limiting athlete movement and requiring regular testing.
But neither vaccines nor quarantines will be mandatory for Games participants. – AFP