Tokyo Olympic organizing committee President Seiko Hashimoto recently hinted at the possibility that no foreign fans would be allowed at the Tokyo Games this year after talking with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and other Olympic executives. Hashimoto didn’t directly say that this rule would be enforced, however, it’s likely that in the coming months the announcement will be made official.
Japanese newspaper Mainichi cited unnamed sources that were apparently “involved in the discussions” in which Olympic organizers claimed that foreign fans would be excluded from the Games this year due to safety concerns and the uncertainty surrounding where the world will be at with the Covid-19 pandemic by this summer.
“If the situation is tough and it would make the (Japanese) consumers concerned, that is a situation we need to avoid from happening,” organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto said after discussing how the decision on foreign fans will be officially made by the end of the month. She specifically is wanting one by March 25th, when the torch relay is projected to begin.
The Olympic Games are currently expected to open on July 23rd, and according to the Mainichi newspaper, “unnamed government officials already know that in the current situation it is impossible to bring in foreign spectators.”
80% of residents in Japan have claimed that they want the Games to be postponed again, or fully cancelled this year due to the pandemic and health and safety concerns. Japan has overall controlled the pandemic much better than most countries, however, they still experienced 8,000 deaths.
The subject of fans was a key part of the five-party talks with Bach, International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike and Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa, according to Hashimoto.
“We will focus on the essentials. That means mainly the competitions. This has to be the clear focus. In this respect we may have to set one or another priority.”
The exclusion of fans is nothing new to the conversation surrounding the Olympics this year. The Japanese public has adamantly opposed the Games overall, claiming that allowing outsiders from dozens of countries to come into a small arena sounds like the last thing anyone should participate in during a global pandemic.
According to Bach, “the games will involve 11,000 Olympic athletes, and later 4,400 Paralympians, and tens of thousands of coaches, judges, sponsors, media and VIPs. I was encouraged at the number of national Olympic committees that were getting athletes vaccinated.”
It’s important to note that the IOC said it encourages vaccinations but will not require them. The general plan as of right now is to isolate athletes in an Olympic Village located along Tokyo Bay. Once they arrive they will be placed in a bubble until they leave the nation; kind of like the NBA bubble at Disney but at a much larger scale.
“A decision on venue capacity will be made by the end of April. We need to look at the overall situation before we decide on any percentage rates. We believe we will not be accepted unless the citizens feel confident that sufficient countermeasures are taken. Having fewer fans will be costly. The organizing committee has budgeted income of $800 million from ticket sales. That shortfall will have to be made up by Japanese government entities,” Hashimoto explained.
Only time will tell if and how the 2021 postponed Tokyo Summer Olympic Games will be possible.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at email@example.com.