After all, there will be no audience at the Tokyo Games. With two weeks to go before the flame is lit on the pyre of the Games of the XXXII Olympiad, the organizers of the multi-sport competition decided to prohibit the presence of the public at the event, at the request of health authorities and a broad segment of public opinion. The decision, announced by the minister for the Games, Tamayo Marukawa, was released after the Japanese Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga, declared on Thursday a new state of emergency for Tokyo, the fourth since the beginning of the health crisis caused by the new coronavirus.
The delta variant of the virus —detected for the first time in India and highly contagious— has been causing a new increase in infections in the Japanese capital since the end of June and already accounts for two-thirds of the total number of infections registered in Japan. In the large-scale outbreak in the city of Tokyo, the Japanese Government, the Games Organizing Committee, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the International Paralympic Committee and the Tokyo metropolitan authority met on Thursday to re-evaluate the month’s decision past to allow a maximum capacity of 10,000 spectators or whether that number of people would be reviewed. In March, the presence of foreign spectators had already been banned, and now it is confirmed that the Japanese will also not be able to attend the sporting event.
The 10,000-person limit was established in line with the Suga Government’s policy of restricting the number of spectators at major events to 50% of venue capacity and with the premise that Tokyo Municipality was not in a state of emergency. The Japanese capital was expected to end last Sunday some “near emergency” measures adopted in June, but after 920 new covid-19 infections were registered on Wednesday (the highest number since May 13, when, amidst to the fourth wave, 1,010 cases were counted), the Government decided to take a step back and decree a state of emergency from July 12th to August 22nd. The Games will be held in full during this period.
The ban on the presence of fans in competitions is the latest blow for the Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020, postponed for a year because of the start of the pandemic and whose organization has become a veritable obstacle race. The measure, however, was taken for granted.
on tuesday the newspaper Asahi Shimbun he anticipated that everything pointed to the fact that at the opening ceremony on July 23 at the National Stadium only honored members could attend the inaugural show and parade: basically, members of the IOC, the “Olympic family” and senior officials.
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In addition, earlier this week, authorities in Sapporo, the city that will host between August 5th and 8th the Olympic march, 20 and 50 kilometers, and the marathon, instructed citizens not to attend these competitions due to the high risk of increased covid-19 contagions. The region of which Sapporo is the capital, Hokkaido, remains in a state of emergency and, according to local news agency Kyodo News, its governor, Naomichi Suzuki, had asked competition promoters to impose restrictions to prevent thousands of people crowd the streets where athletes will pass. The Tokyo Games Organizing Committee had already agreed on Tuesday with authorities in Sapporo and Hokkaido to limit population movements to minimize the risk of infection.
The torch relay, which began in late March in Fukushima prefecture, in the northeast of the country, arrives in Tokyo this Friday also amid new restrictions. The Metropolitan Government announced that the main streets of the central neighborhoods were excluded from the path of the Olympic flame and that the presence of spectators in any area, except on the islands, will not be allowed. About 1,300 torch bearers initially summoned will not participate in the tour of the Japanese capital. The change will involve holding small closed-door ceremonies for the transfer of Olympic fire.
Although the IOC and the Organizing Committee have insisted on the commitment that the event be held with guarantees of safety, the recent increase in cases continues to provoke more skepticism among the Japanese, who question the relevance of two events (the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games ) of such magnitude in such an adverse situation. Researchers at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases calculate that if strict measures are not enacted, daily cases will soar to more than 1,500 in late July and to 2,000 in August, which could cause the health system to saturate.
11,000 Olympic and 4,400 Paralympic athletes from 200 countries are expected to participate and, according to the organizers, 80% of athletes and athletes will be vaccinated. To date, more than 50 million doses have been administered in Japan. In total, only 14.51% of the population is fully vaccinated.