Olympic spectators likely, despite widespread opposition

Olympics organisers opened the Tokyo athletes' village to the media on Sunday.

Olympics organisers opened the Tokyo athletes' village to the media on Sunday. Photo: Getty

Olympic organisers are expected to decide later on Monday whether, and to what extent, domestic spectators will be allowed into venues in a decision that health experts say has implications for public safety during the coronavirus pandemic.

Japan is moving ahead with staging the multibillion-dollar Games, which were delayed by a year due to the pandemic, despite worries about a resurgence in COVID-19 infections and public opposition.

Tokyo 2021 President Seiko Hashimoto has said she was eyeing a cap of 10,000 people per venue.

Spectators from overseas have already banned from the event.

Officials are separately considering allowing as many as 20,000 people to attend the opening ceremony on July 23 as spectators, in part due to an expected increase in the number of people involved with the Games who would no longer be allowed on the field.

A final decision on whether to allow domestic spectators is expected to be made at the meeting among Tokyo 2021 organisers, the International Olympic Committee, International Paralympic Committee, Japanese government and Tokyo Metropolitan government.

The meeting comes after some of Japan’s top health experts on Friday said that banning spectators was the least risky option for holding the Games, even as they seemed resigned to the possibility of fans in venues.

Japan’s public remains opposed to holding the Games this summer, with a June 19-20 poll from Asahi News Network finding 65 per cent of respondents saying they wanted the event postponed again or cancelled.

Nearly 70 per cent said they thought the Games would not be held safely and securely, as advocated by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Olympic organisers.

Mr Suga last week decided to lift a coronavirus state of emergency for Tokyo and eight other prefectures where there had been a COVID-19 resurgence.

The government kept in place lesser, “quasi-emergency” restrictions for seven of the nine prefectures, including Tokyo. They will run until July 11, less than a fortnight before the Games are set to open on July 23.

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