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Tokyo Games likely to be held without foreign spectators

The organizing committee for the Tokyo Games and the central and metropolitan governments are expected to agree that foreign spectators should not be allowed to enter Japan for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics this summer, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

According to several senior officials of the government and the committee, it has been decided that a large number of overseas visitors could cause anxiety among the public as the novel coronavirus continues to spread around the world. The organizing committee plans to formally summarize its position soon and convey it to the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee.

A total of 900,000 tickets have already been sold overseas, the Games officials said. However, there is no sign that the pandemic is under control in Japan or abroad.

“At this point, it is difficult to foresee allowing in a large number of spectators,” a government official said.

IOC President Thomas Bach, IPC President Andrew Parsons, Olympic minister Tamayo Marukawa, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike and organizing committee President Seiko Hashimoto held an online meeting on Wednesday.

At the meeting, Marukawa said, “It is very difficult to predict the [infection] situation in the future, so we need to decide carefully” on the entry of foreign spectators. No conclusion was reached that day, but it was agreed that a decision would be made this month on whether to accept foreign visitors.

The relevant parties plan to decide by March 25, when the torch relay is to depart from Fukushima Prefecture.

A senior official of the organizing committee said Wednesday evening, “If the Japan side decides not to accept overseas visitors, the IOC and IPC will respect that.”

After the meeting, Hashimoto said the reason for aiming to decide by March 25 was that “both the IOC and IPC have received requests for an early decision, in consideration of hotel and other arrangements.” This indicates that the organizing committee believes an early decision is necessary to minimize the impact of the many travel-related cancellations that will occur if foreign visitors are not allowed in.

It was also agreed at the meeting that a decision on the maximum number of spectators to be allowed into competition venues would be made in April, based on the infection situation and trends in professional baseball and other sports.

After the meeting, Marukawa told reporters in Tokyo, “We’ll decide based on the situation, using sports events in Japan and abroad as a reference.”

The government has suspended the entry of nonresident foreign nationals from all over the world since January, in response to the spread of infections. Even after the state of emergency covering four prefectures in the Tokyo metropolitan area is lifted, the entry ban is expected to continue for the time being to guard against the influx of variants of the virus.

The government plans to allow foreign athletes and other people involved in the Games to enter Japan.

Published : March 05, 2021

By : The Japan News/ANN