An Olympic rings monument is pictured in the waterfront area at Odaiba Marine Park in Tokyo, Japan, April 2, 2021. Picture taken April 2, 2021. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
July 7, 2021
TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s government is floating proposals that would ban fans from all Olympic events, the Mainichi newspaper reported on Wednesday, as officials scramble to address public concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.
Medical experts have said for weeks that no spectators would be the least risky option. Organisers have already banned overseas spectators and set a cap on domestic spectators at 50% of capacity, up to 10,000 people.
The Mainichi, citing sources within government, said discussions about barring spectators were partly the result of political considerations after Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s ruling party failed to win a majority in an election for the Tokyo’s assembly on Sunday, partly due to dissatisfaction over the government’s virus measures.
The issue of spectators is due to be decided at five-way talks on Thursday including the Tokyo governor and IOC President Thomas Bach, who arrives in Japan that day.
The Tokyo 2020 organising committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Asked about the issue of spectators at a press conference on Tuesday, top government spokesman Katsunobu Kato said Suga has said holding the Games without spectators was a possibility.
On Thursday, the government is likely to extend a state of quasi-emergency in Tokyo and three nearby prefectures beyond an original end-date of July 11, government sources have said.
Kyodo News reported the extension would likely last a month, meaning the curbs will be in place throughout the Olympics, which close with a ceremony on Aug. 8.
Japan has not had the explosive COVID-19 outbreaks seen elsewhere but has seen more than 800,000 cases and more than 14,800 deaths. A slow rollout has meant only a quarter of its population has had at least one COVID-19 vaccination shot.
(Reporting by Mari Saito; Editing by Lincoln Feast)