Local media reported on Tuesday that Japan has decided to pull out foreign spectators from the Tokyo Olympics. Kyodo News said that the government had concluded that it is possible to allow fans from abroad to participate in this summer's games, as the epidemic had already been delayed by a year.
Kyodo cited unnamed officials as saying “due to concern in the Japanese public over coronovirus and the fact that more infectious variants have been detected in many countries”.
Asahi Shimbun said that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had asked Japan to make an exception for foreign guests associated with sponsors, and the government was considering the request.
In total, 8,300 people have died in Japan, despite infections this winter. It has avoided imposing blanket lockdowns, but the Tokyo area is currently in a state of emergency, requesting the closure of bars and restaurants soon.
Tokyo 2020 organizers have insisted that public safety will be a “top priority” at the Olympics, which are scheduled to begin on 23 July.
Around 900,000 tickets have been sold outside Japan.
Sports organizers have said they plan to officially rule the case for foreign fans this month – possibly before the nationwide torch relay begins on March 25.
Earlier on Tuesday, there were reports that the torch-relay debut ceremony would probably be held without an audience, but fans would still be able to turn the route.
And a survey by Yomiuri Shimbun published this week found that more than 75 percent opposed foreign fans participating in Japanese sports.
Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto said on Friday that the organizers “really want to hold events throughout the stadium with fans from all over the world”.
But it would be difficult “if we are not in a position where we can accept them and the situation is not right with medical facilities”, he said.
Organizers have already put in place strict rules for the nationwide torch relay, which was discontinued in 2020 following the historic decision to postpone the Games for a year.
The report said that organizers are anticipating an increased crowd at the event beginning March 25 in Fukushima and that the planned 3,000 spectators will initially be stopped.
A spokesman for the Tokyo 2020 organizers would only say that “(relay) details of the grand start are still under discussion”.
The organizers are also set to set the overall viewership limit in April.
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