Japan Reportedly May Allow Domestic Spectators To Attend The Olympics
Japan may allow domestic spectators to attend the Tokyo Olympics as the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines in the country gathers pace and the number of daily new cases continues to drop, a move that would mark a reversal from previous statements that suggested that the games would go ahead without any spectators in the stands.
According to the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun, the government will make a decision about having spectators by June 20, when Japan’s Covid-19 state of emergency is scheduled to end.
The country’s daily rise in Covid-19 cases has dropped to around 2,000 a day—which is a third of May’s peak of around 6,200 cases per day.
Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, reportedly pushed for the inclusion of spectators at the games and cited the success of the country’s soccer and baseball leagues having fans in attendance as an example.
One of the reported concerns that officials have about holding the games in empty stadiums is that athletes will not be able to perform to their fullest without a crowd behind them.
All discussions about the games are taking place under the assumption that domestic spectators will be in attendance, the Asahi report added, citing an official from the Japanese Prime Minister’s office.
On Tuesday, Hashimoto announced that foreign media coming to Japan to cover the Olympics will be closely monitored via GPS trackers to ensure that they do not leave their pre-registered areas or potentially put residents at risk of exposure.
18.35 million. That’s the total number of vaccine doses that have been administered in Japan, with almost 11% of the population getting at least one dose, according to Bloomberg’s vaccination tracker. Despite a late start, the pace of Japan’s rollout has picked up significantly in the past few weeks with nearly a quarter of the total doses being administered just in the last week.
The games have faced vocal opposition both from doctors and the general public in Japan, however, a recent poll suggested that half of the country believes that the games will go forward as planned. According to the survey conducted by Japanese paper Yomiuri, 50% of respondents said the Games would happen this summer while 48% said the event would be canceled. Most respondents however agreed that virus measures for athletes and participants were inadequate while the approval rating for Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s administration slumped to its lowest level at 37%.
Despite the ramp-up in vaccinations and decline in daily new cases, Japan continues to report close to 100 deaths from Covid-19 every day. While the number of new cases has declined slightly in Tokyo—the host city—the drop has been nowhere near as sharp with the capital city still reporting around 400 new cases on average every day. Japanese doctors have called for the games to either be postponed or canceled and warned that the country’s medical infrastructure is already stretched thin by the pandemic. The games have also faced a few major setbacks with at least 40 Japanese towns abandoning plans to host visiting athletes amid concerns about inadequate resources. Nearly 10,000 volunteers for the Olympics have also withdrawn their participation. The public perception of the games has also been dented by seemingly tone-deaf comments from senior International Olympic Committee (IOC) officials. Last month, IOC president Thomas Bach faced a torrent of criticism in Japan after suggesting that “some sacrifices” would have to be made to allow the Olympics to go forward. World Athletics president Sebastian Coe has called on the Olympics organizers to do more to persuade Japanese people about how much work they have done to organize a safe Tokyo Games.
The U.S. State Department on Tuesday eased its travel advisory for Japan just two weeks after it had placed the country in the Level-4 “Do Not Travel” list due to the surging pandemic there. The advisory has now been lowered to a Level-3 “Reconsider Travel.” However, this is unlikely to have an impact on the games itself as foreign fans are not allowed to attend the games and the U.S. government noted that the advisory did not apply to athletes participating in the Olympics.