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The organizers of the Tokyo Olympics on Monday ended months of speculation by announcing that a maximum of 10,000 fans would be allowed in sports facilities, nearly a month before the start of the postponed global event, noting that the competitions may be held behind closed doors in the event of an increase in the number of infections with the Corona virus.
This decision is good news for the athletes who will have crowd support, albeit relatively subdued compared to previous editions of the Games, rather than competing in front of empty stands.
“In light of government restrictions related to public events, an audience of 50 percent of each facility’s capacity, with a maximum of 10,000 people in all facilities, will be permitted,” the organizers said in a statement.
They added in a statement that the decision on the number of fans who will be allowed to attend the Paralympic Games will be postponed until July 16, a week before the start of the Games.
“If there is a drastic change in the number of infections, we may need to reconsider this issue and consider the option of no spectators in the facilities,” Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said before announcing the decision.
With the games scheduled to open on July 23, leading medical experts, including government advisers, have confirmed that holding the Games behind closed doors would be “ideal” from a health point of view. They fear the crowds of fans will lead to a new increase in infections while the vaccination campaign continues.
The decision was made after five-way talks between the Tokyo 2020 organizers and officials from the Japanese government, the Tokyo government, the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee.
Speaking before the meeting, German IOC President Thomas Bach said he was “absolutely sure that it would be a decision to best protect the Japanese people and all participants”.
– Opposition retreated? –
It was reported that the organizing committee has canceled plans to sell more tickets, and will hold polls to choose among those who have already purchased tickets.
Before the Games were postponed last year, 4.45 million tickets were sold for the Olympic Games, and nearly one million tickets for the Paralympic Games were sold. In December, they said they would refund 18 percent of the price of Olympic tickets purchased locally and 21 percent of the price of tickets to the Paralympic Games.
Japan is relatively less affected by the coronavirus than many other countries, with around 14,500 deaths as a result of the epidemic.
The vaccination campaign has been slower than in many developed countries, but the pace has recently accelerated. More than 6.5 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated.
Regulators also face the fears and skepticism of public opinion. Most opinion polls have shown that a majority of Japanese support either another postponement of the Games or a complete abolition of the Games.
But recently, new polls indicated that the popular opposition has waned, as a larger section supports holding the Games this summer rather than canceling them, if delaying is not an option.
A poll published Monday showed that about a third of those questioned supported holding the Games, up 14 percent from last month, although the majority still favored delays or cancellations.
Organizers insist on adherence to strict rules to maintain the safety of athletes and the public, while Bach indicated Monday that “more than” 80 percent of residents in the Olympic Village will be vaccinated.
Athletes will be banned from public contact and risk being disqualified from games if they violate laws, including wearing a mask and undergoing daily COVID-19 checks.
A Ugandan Olympic team member tested positive for the coronavirus upon arrival in Japan on Saturday.
Reports indicated that all members of the mission had previously received the vaccine and had negative test results before traveling to Japan.
© 2021 AFP