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AFP
June 22, 2021

Up to 10,000 fans allowed at Tokyo Olympics events

AFP
June 22, 2021

TOKYO: Up to 10,000 fans will be allowed at Tokyo Olympic events, organisers said Monday, warning competition could move behind closed doors if infections surge.

The decision, just weeks before the opening ceremony, ends months of speculation about whether domestic spectators would be able to attend the pandemic-postponed Games. Overseas fans were banned in March.

A lottery will determine which existing ticket-holders can attend a Games that will be unlike any other, with cheering banned, masks mandatory, and fans told to go straight home after the competition.

“In light of the government’s restrictions on public events, the spectator limit for the Olympic Games will be set at 50 percent of venue capacity, up to a maximum of 10,000 people in all venues,” organisers said in a statement.

A decision on spectators at the Paralympics will be delayed until July 16, a week before the Olympics open. And officials left open the possibility of a reversal if the virus rebounds. Tokyo was under a coronavirus state of emergency until Sunday. “If there should be major dramatic change in the infection situation, we may need to revisit this matter amongst ourselves and we may need to consider the option of having no spectators in the venues,” Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said.

Senior medical experts, including top advisors to the government, have said holding the Games behind closed doors would be “ideal” from a health perspective. They fear crowds of fans could fuel a new surge in infections in a country still racing to vaccinate its residents. Organisers said it was unlikely that negative virus tests would be required to attend.

International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach, speaking before the announcement, said he was “absolutely sure that it will be a decision to best protect the Japanese people and all participants”.

There will be some wiggle room on the cap, with organisers allowing sponsors and others dubbed “stakeholders” to attend above the 10,000 limit. They said those spectators would travel separately from the public and pose less of a virus risk, but declined to specify how many people would come under that group.

School children invited as part of a special programme also won’t count towards the cap. “People still talk about what they saw at the first Tokyo Olympics. That’s how memorable this event is. We want to offer the same experience to children,” Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto said.

The decision means Tokyo 2020 needs to take back 910,000 of 3.64 million tickets currently held by domestic fans. Organisers said limiting spectators would cut projected ticket revenues by about 50 percent. And even those limited numbers of fans could be kept out if the virus surges.