Sports fans in Japan could be allowed to attend Olympic events in Tokyo this summer if they have proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test, a newspaper reported Monday.
While many athletes are expected to be fully vaccinated by the end of July, poor planning and a shortage of staff mean that most Japanese citizens will still be waiting for a hit when the Olympics start in less than two months.
Having decided to ban foreign spectators, local organizers are pinning their hopes on a limited number of Japanese sports fans by creating a semblance of atmosphere in otherwise empty venues.
The Yomiuri Shimbun report came as another poll challenged Olympic officials’ predictions that public opposition to the Games will fade as the July 23 opening ceremony approaches.
A poll in the Nikkei business newspaper found that 62% of respondents thought the Olympics should be canceled or postponed, while 33% said they should go ahead with fewer or no spectators.
The IOC has ruled out another delay, citing an already packed sports calendar in 2022.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told reporters that he was unaware that any agreement had been reached on domestic viewers.
“For the Games to be a success, it is necessary to take into account the feelings of the people,” Kato said, adding that the organizers will ensure that infection prevention measures are in place to organize the event safely.
Organizers have said the decision on domestic fans will be announced next month, most likely after the last round of emergency restrictions ends in Tokyo and other areas on June 20.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who faces criticism of the government’s launch of the vaccine and his silence in the face of controversial comments from International Olympic Committee (IOC) officials, is believed to be in favor of allowing Japanese citizens to attend. the events.
When the latest state of emergency was declared in Tokyo and other areas in late April, officials requested that sports and other major events be held behind closed doors. Since then, the council has relaxed to allow up to 5,000 people or 50% of a venue’s capacity.
Government officials have flagged baseball and soccer games that have been played safely with a limited number of people present.
“The discussion about not having viewers is over, and now the main point under consideration is how many we can allow,” an anonymous official told the Kyodo news agency earlier this month.
Yomiuri Shimbun’s report sparked anger on social media, where users questioned the wisdom of going ahead with the Games during the pandemic, and at a time when Japan is struggling to make significant dents in its daily case load during the last. state of emergency.
The term “negative test certificate” was trending on Twitter in Japan, generating more than 26,000 tweets on Monday afternoon.
“If you can’t eat, cheer, or high-five, what’s the use of paying a ticket and an expensive test?” one Twitter user asked, referring to other proposed security measures, while others questioned the accuracy of the Covid-19 tests.
While the pace of new infections has slowed in Tokyo, the number of critically ill Covid-19 patients across Japan has reached record levels in recent days.
There has also been criticism of the response from senior IOC officials to public concerns that the Games, which will involve some 90,000 athletes, officials, journalists, sponsors and support staff, could trigger another virus outbreak in Japan and exercise more pressure on the country. Health services.
John Coates, an IOC vice president overseeing preparations, recently said that Tokyo 2020 would go ahead even if the host city and other areas were covered by emergency measures against the coronavirus.
On Friday, Dick Pound, a senior IOC official, said that “barring Armageddon,” the Games would go ahead.
Last week, the president of the organizing committee, Seiko Hashimoto, suggested that the ban on local fans had not been ruled out.
“There are a lot of people who say that for the Olympics we have to run without spectators, although other sports accept them,” Hashimoto said. “So we have to take that into account. We must prevent local medical services from being affected. We need to take those things into consideration before agreeing on the spectator count. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism