“No spectators” still possible for the Tokyo Olympics
TOKYO (AP) – A “spectator-free games” remains an option for the Tokyo Olympics, which officially opens in just four weeks, the chairman of the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee said on Friday.
Seiko Hashimoto’s admission comes just four days after it announced on Monday that up to 10,000 local fans would be allowed into the venues – with a number not exceeding 50% of the venues’ capacity, regardless indoor or outdoor events.
Organizers postponed the decision to local fans for several months, and overseas fans were banned months ago. The decision to allow fans has gone against many medical experts who have said the safest Olympics will be without fans due to the coronavirus.
“What I think is that no sighting should remain an option for us as we look at things,” Hashimoto said at a press conference. “The situation changes from time to time, which is why we have to remain flexible and quick to respond to any changes. A game without a spectator is one of our options.
Organizers appeared to back down slightly on fans after a COVID-19 panel for the Tokyo Metropolitan Government reported Thursday that “there is a sign of a resurgence” of infections in Tokyo.
The panel said infections had increased by 11% over the past week – based on the seven-day average – with more cases of contagious variants of Delta detected. Organizers say they will take another look at fans after the current “near-state of emergency” ends on July 11.
Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa issued another wake-up call on Friday when she confirmed that a member of the Ugandan team who tested positive for the coronavirus upon entering Japan last week was infected with the Delta variant.
Despite extensive testing before and after entry, cases like this seem certain to occur with 11,000 Olympic and 4,400 Paralympic athletes entering Tokyo, as well as tens of thousands of staff, coaches, and coaches. judges and officials from the IOC and additional sports federations.
The Ugandan member, who is believed to be a trainer, tested positive last Saturday at Narita airport near Tokyo and quarantined. But Japanese authorities have allowed the rest of the nine-person squad to travel more than 500 kilometers (300 miles) in a chartered bus to their pre-game camp in Izumisano, western Osaka prefecture.
The eight members of the team are in quarantine at a hotel there. A second member of the team tested positive on Wednesday, but it is not known whether the case is linked to the Delta variant.
“The Olympic Organizing Committee is very interested in hearing more about this (Ugandan) example,” Hashimoto said. “We will pay particular attention to extracting as much information as possible from this experience”, with operations refined accordingly.
She added: “We cannot say that everything is 100%. We are going to make a bubble as close to 100% as possible. “
The head of the Imperial Household Agency said Thursday that Emperor Naruhito was “extremely worried” about the health risks presented by the Olympics. It was a rare gesture for the ceremonial figure who stays away from politics.
He had no obligation to talk about the Olympics, and the fact that he did is more important than what he said.
Hashimoto was asked at least three times about the Emperor’s comments, but did not mention his name and gave vague answers.
“We need to eliminate the anxiety and worry of all Japanese people,” she said. “We really have to make sure the games run safely and securely. We will therefore have to make more efforts to achieve this. “
The IOC is moving forward with the Olympics, in part because it derives nearly 75% of its revenue from the sale of broadcast rights. Estimates suggest that $ 3-4 billion in broadcast money is at stake in Tokyo.
The official cost of the Olympics is $ 15.4 billion, although several government audits indicate it is much larger. Everything but $ 6.7 billion is public money. The IOC contributes around $ 1.5 billion.
Japan has reported around 780,000 cases of the coronavirus and has attributed around 14,500 deaths to COVID-19. About 9% of Japanese have been fully immunized as the government ramps up its vaccination campaign.
Associated Press writer Kantaro Komiya contributed to this report.
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