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Olympic Games to be staged without foreign spectators

The Japanese Government has reportedly decided to stage the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics without overseas spectators this summer, according to media in the host nation yesterday.

The Kyodo News Agency has reported the Government has concluded that welcoming fans from abroad would not be possible given public concern about Covid-19 and detection of more contagious variants in many countries.

There is a also suggestion that the Games, set for July 23 to August 8 and the opening ceremony could be held behind closed doors.

"The organising committee has decided it is essential to hold the ceremony in the northeastern prefecture of Fukushima behind closed doors, only permitting participants and invitees to take part in the event, to avoid large crowds forming amid the pandemic," Kyodo said, quoting the officials.

Much of the Japanese public are opposed to international visitors being able to attend the Games amid fears that a large influx of visitors could spark a resurgence of infections, a Yomiuri newspaper poll showed.

The survey showed 77 per cent of respondents were against allowing foreign fans to attend, versus 18 per cent who were in favour.

The latest development is in contrast to last week in which Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto said publicly she was open to all fans being allowed to attend the rescheduled Olympic and Paralympic Games this year, albeit in limited numbers.

Any official decision regarding spectators’ possible attendance will be made over two stages. The first will be to determine whether to allow foreign spectators at all — expected by the end of this month — before establishing how many fans could be permitted at various venues.

IOC president Thomas Bach revealed that a final decision could be made in either April or May, just a matter of months ahead of the scheduled start of the Games.

Hashimoto, who replaced Yoshiro Mori as head of the organising committee last month, told Japanese media that she believed the Olympic and Paralympic Games should be staged in front of spectators.

"When we think about the possibility of holding the Olympics without fans in the stands, athletes will definitely wonder why there are no fans just for the Olympics and Paralympics when other competitions are allowing in spectators," Hashimoto said.

"Everyone wants an early decision about the direction to be taken regarding fans to prepare tickets and hotel accommodations."

Meanwhile, IOC executive director for the Olympic Games Christophe Dubi said organisers "have to take the decision as late as possible but as early as needed" regarding spectators.

A state of emergency still remains in the host city, but cases have fallen in the Japanese capital in recent weeks.

It has also been reported in Japan that foreign athletes could be allowed to enter the country and train later this month when the state of emergency is due to be lifted.

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Published March 10, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated March 09, 2021 at 9:52 pm)

Olympic Games to be staged without foreign spectators

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