Tokyo: On Friday, the chairman of the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee indicated that local fans may also be banned from the venue when the Games begin in less than two months.
Fans from overseas were rejected months ago due to being too risky during an epidemic.
The possibility of vacant spots in the postponed Olympics became greater when the Japanese government on Friday decided to extend the state of emergency to 20 June as COVID-19 cases keep the medical system under stress.
The emergency was to be lifted on Monday. The expansion in Tokyo, Osaka and other provinces raises even more questions about whether the Olympics can be held.
The organizers and the IOC are insisting that they will go ahead despite the elections in Japan, showing that 60–80% want them to withdraw.
“We want to take a decision as soon as possible (on the fans), but we will assess it once the emergency situation is lifted,” Seko Hashimoto, chairman of the organizing committee, said in his weekly briefing.
Hashimoto promised to decide on local fans by April, then shut it down by early June. Now the deadline is within a month of the July 23 opening date.
Hashimoto said, “There are many people who are saying that for the Olympic Games we have to run without spectators, although other sports are accepting spectators.” “So we have to keep this in mind. We need to avoid that local medical services are affected. We have to keep those things in mind before agreeing on the number of viewers.”
Daily cancellation pressure increases on Tokyo and the IOC as more questions arise about the risks of bringing 15,000 Olympic and Paralympic athletes from more than 200 countries and territories to Japan, a country largely shut down during the epidemic has gone.
The IOC states that more than 80% of athletes and staff living in the Olympic Village on Tokyo Bay will be vaccinated. Their villages and locations are expected to live in a massive bubble.
In addition to the athletes, thousands of judges, officials, VIPs, media and broadcasters will also have to enter Japan.
Earlier this week, the New England Journal of Medicine said in a commentary: “We believe the IOC’s determination to move forward with the Olympic Games has not been informed by the best scientific evidence.”
It questioned the IOC’s so-called Playbooks, which lays down the rules of sports for athletes, employees, media and others. The final version will be published next month. Also this week, Asahi Shimbun – the country’s second largest newspaper – said the Olympics should be canceled.
In an editorial last month, the British Medical Journal asked the organizers to “reconsider” the holding of the Olympics amid the epidemic.
On Thursday, the head of a small doctors’ association in Japan warned that organizing the Olympics could spread the forms of coronavirus. He referred to tensions in India, Britain, South Africa and Brazil.
Japan has attributed COVID-19 to around 12,500 deaths, a relatively small number that has steadily increased over the past few months. Vaccination began slowly in Japan, but has increased rapidly in the last few days. Approximately 5% of the estimated population are vaccinated people.
The IOC, which often cites the World Health Organization as the source of most of its coronovirus information, has been firm in saying that there will be games. It derives about 75% of its income from the sale of broadcast rights, which is estimated to be $ 2 billion- $ 3 billion from Tokyo. That cash flow has been slowed by postponement.
Japan itself has officially spent $ 15.4 billion or held the Olympics, and government audits show that figure is even higher.
IOC senior member Richard Pound told a British newspaper this week that there would be games “except Armageddon”. Last week, IOC Vice President John Coats was asked if the Olympics would open, even if there was a state of emergency.
“Absolutely, yes,” he replied.
IOC President Thomas Bach has also said that “everyone in the Olympic community” needs to make sacrifices to hold the Olympics.
The message received pushback from Japanese social and local media, with some noting that the IOC and the so-called Olympic family have been booked into many of Tokyo’s top five-star hotels during the Games.
Hashimoto defended the leadership of the IOC.
“The IOC has the determination to hold the Games,” she said. “So such strong will is translated into strong words. I think so.”