Residents of Japan with tickets to the Tokyo Olympics may not know until weeks before the opening of the Games whether they will be allowed to attend.
Fans from abroad have already been banned, and on Wednesday, organizing committee chairman Seiko Hashimoto said a decision on the venue’s capacity – or whether there will be fans at all or just empty seats – could be made by June. She had previously promised this decision for this month.
“We are still studying the weather,” Hashimoto told a news conference in Tokyo after she and CEO Toshiro Muto completed an online briefing behind closed doors with the IOC Executive Board in Switzerland.
She confirmed that June “is an option. I guess we need a little more time to make a proper assessment. “
Government Minister Taro Kano, who is in charge of launching the vaccines in Japan, hinted last week that gaps seem likely as COVID-19 grows in Japan.
Hashimoto’s retreat is typical of ever-changing planning, as virus cases are on the rise in Japan with the postponed Tokyo Olympics set to open three months later in the midst of a pandemic.
Hashimoto acknowledged the low public support in Japan for the continuation of the Olympic Games, especially since less than 1% of the population has been vaccinated. Polls have repeatedly shown that 70-80% are against continuing with the games.
“The situation in the local municipalities is quite terrible,” Hashimoto said. “And in this context, Japanese citizens and residents have worries and anxieties. I know that. … For the safety and security of games, we must limit the spread of the virus as soon as possible. “
Many of the concerns are now centered around the burner relay.
A stage of the relay on Wednesday was moved from public streets in the city of Matsuyama in Ehime Prefecture. It was to be held in a city park without “spectators or stage performances,” the organizing committee said in a statement.
This followed the torch, which was taken last week to Osaka – the second largest city in Japan – and moved only in a city park.
Some relay legs will also be removed from public streets on May 1-2 on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa.
The torch relay will include a total of 10,000 runners crossing Japan until it arrives on July 23 at the opening ceremony in Tokyo. The relay began on March 25th in northeastern Japan, and although it was held with few incidents, organizers warned that it might need to be redirected if conditions changed.
Osaka and Tokyo were expected to undergo new emergency orders this week. Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said measures should be taken “as soon as possible” to stop the spread. And Hashimoto acknowledged that they are likely to take effect soon.
Japan has attributed more than 9,600 deaths to COVID-19, good by global standards but bad by Asian standards.
“If the coronavirus infection continues to worsen, it’s not time to hold the Olympics,” Kotaro Nagasaki, governor of Yamanashi prefecture, said this week.
Yamanashi is located southwest of Tokyo and is home to the famous mountain. Fuji.
Some test events in Tokyo are also postponed or reassigned. Many of these, which continue, are held without athletes – so-called operational events – or only with Japanese athletes.
A qualifying event for artistic swimming in Tokyo, which was first planned for earlier in the year and then moved to early May, will now take place outside Japan in June, according to a statement from the FINA swimming governing body.
It had to be partially relocated because the FINA diving competition will take place in Tokyo on May 1-6 at the new Olympic swimming venue. It will be held without fans and will include divers from abroad.
Last week, Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa said it could be necessary to test every athlete every day during the Olympics. Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported on Tuesday that daily saliva tests are planned for Olympic and Paralympic athletes, citing “officials who know about the planning.”
Hashimoto confirmed that “in principle, testing will be daily.” Early plans required tests every four days.
This change is likely to appear in the second edition of the Playbook, which should be published by the end of the month. These guides have been issued by the IOC and so far vague rules have been established for 15,400 Olympic and Paralympic athletes and tens of thousands of others – judges, officials, media and television operators – upon their entry into Japan.
The final edition of the Playbook will be released in June.
So far, Japanese athletes have not been vaccinated and officials have repeatedly stated that this is not planned. There will certainly be strong public opposition to any plan to push young athletes out of older people, health workers and other vulnerable communities.