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Spectator cap of 10,000 imposed for Games events

By WANG XU in Tokyo | China Daily | Updated: 2021-06-22 09:46
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A general view of the Olympic Rings installed on a floating platform with the Rainbow Bridge in the background in preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan June 21, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

Olympic organizers on Monday decided to allow up to 10,000 spectators at each event in this summer's Tokyo Games but warned of the possibility of moving events behind closed doors if coronavirus infections surge.

"In light of the government's restrictions on public events, the spectator limit for the Olympic Games will be set at 50 percent of venue capacity, up to a maximum of 10,000 people in all venues," a statement said.

The declaration was issued after an online meeting by the so-called "Five Parties", comprised of the Games' organizing committee, the Japanese government, the Tokyo Metropolitan government and the International Olympic and Paralympic committees.

The decision weeks before the scheduled opening ceremony on July 23 clears up the final major uncertainty about the Games. It ends several months of speculation on whether spectators will be allowed for Olympic events. Organizers had banned spectators from abroad in March.

A decision on how many fans can attend the Paralympics, which begin Aug 24, will be made by July 16.

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto said organizers will reexamine their decision on fans if cases rise again, or another state of emergency in Tokyo is declared.

"We acknowledge there is uncertainty on the situation around the pandemic during the Games," Hashimoto said. "So we need to be very flexible."

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Monday he would prefer to see fans in the stands but said if the pandemic situation worsens, banning any from attending is "definitely a possibility."

Utmost priority

"I think that's obvious from the standpoint of making safety and security our utmost priority," Suga said while visiting a vaccination site in the capital.

Although Tokyo's local committee said they only sold tickets for 42 percent of the total seats in venues, the attendance cap of 10,000 will inevitably leave many ticket holders disappointed.

Popular events like the opening and closing ceremonies were originally planned to be seen by up to 68,000 people.

The restrictions will leave organizers with a logistical challenge in deciding who to let in. Hashimoto said a fresh lottery will be introduced.

The Japanese public remained unconvinced about the Games going ahead as scheduled. A nationwide survey conducted by Kyodo News over the weekend found that around 86 percent of people in Japan are concerned about a resurgence in COVID-19 cases if the Games are held.

Athletes from different countries have arrived Tokyo over the weekend.

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