Organizers to ban Olympic spectators as Tokyo declares emergency report on coronavirus
TOKYO (Reuters) – Olympic organizers are set to ban all spectators at the Games, the Asahi daily said Thursday, as Japan prepared to declare a state of emergency for Tokyo that will last until organizing the event to curb a new wave of coronavirus infections.
Organizers were due to formally make the spectator decision in five-party talks between the main parties to be held on Thursday evening, the newspaper said, citing people involved in the Games.
The move is the latest blow to the struggling Olympics, already delayed for a year due to the pandemic and plagued by a series of setbacks, including massive budget overruns.
Medical experts have said for weeks that no spectators at the Games will be the least risky option amid widespread fear that the influx of thousands of athletes and officials will fuel a new wave of infections.
Organizers have already banned foreign viewers and have so far set a cap for domestic viewers at 50% capacity, up to 10,000 people.
Anyone wishing to support athletes has been instructed to do so by clapping rather than clapping or singing. Public viewing sites have been canceled and businesses, wary of public opposition, have been reluctant to advertise related to the Games, adding to the subdued mood in the Japanese capital.
The evening talks will be chaired by the President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, who will arrive in Tokyo on Thursday. Other participants include Tokyo, national governments and Paralympic officials.
INCREASE IN INFECTIONS IN TOKYO
Japan has not experienced the type of explosive COVID-19 outbreaks seen in many other countries, but has recorded more than 810,000 cases and 14,900 deaths.
Slow vaccine rollout means only a quarter of the Japanese population has received at least one vaccine against COVID-19.
The imposition of a new state of emergency in Tokyo comes after new daily infections in the capital hit 920 on Wednesday, the highest level since mid-May.
Japanese Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who is leading the government’s response to the coronavirus, said the new restrictions will begin on July 12 and end on August 22.
The Games will run from July 23 to August 8.
Tokyo is currently subject to slightly less stringent “near-emergency” restrictions. Under the increased restrictions, restaurants will be asked to stop serving alcohol, Nishimura said.
Areas neighboring Tokyo where some Olympic events are also expected to take place, such as Chiba and Kanagawa, are expected to remain under “near emergency” until August 22.
Underlining the last-minute nature of the preparations, the organizers presented various spectator scenarios to Olympic sponsors until Wednesday, according to a source familiar with the matter.
Sponsors have been advised that in the case of a no-spectator scenario, all sports and opening and closing ceremonies will likely take place without fans, including tickets awarded to sponsors.
The lack of crowds could put more strain on the Games budget here, which has already reached around $ 15.4 billion, with ticket revenues of around $ 815 million expected to be hit hard.
The organizing committee did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
Until this week, officials have insisted they can safely hold the Games with some spectators, but a setback by the ruling party in a Tokyo assembly election on Sunday, that some allies de Suga attributed to public anger over the Olympics, forcing the change of course, sources said.
Japan will hold parliamentary elections later this year and the government’s insistence that the Games – postponed last year as the virus spreads around the world – take place this year could cost it dearly at the polls, they said. declared.
Additional reports from Rocky Swift and Eimi Yamamitsu; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Lincoln Feast.