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Japanese officials buoyed by Yokohama Stadium fan attendance trial

Japanese authorities have hailed the success of a three-day trial held at Yokohama Stadium to test measures allowing the return of fans in large numbers, with further test events scheduled.

The trial took place from Friday to Sunday, concluding with Yokohama Stadium fully reopening to spectators for a Nippon Professional Baseball game between the DeNA BayStars and Hanshin Tigers. The game yesterday drew a crowd of 27,850 to the 32,402-seat stadium.

The three-day trial took place as the government considers whether to relax current rules due to run through November that limit venues hosting events with more than 10,000 spectators in attendance to 50% capacity.

Yokohama Stadium will be the main venue for baseball and softball events at next year’s rescheduled Olympic Games. The trial was carried out by the Kanagawa prefectural and Yokohama municipal governments, as well as mobile game developer DeNA, which operates the stadium as a home for the BayStars.

The three-day trial saw Friday’s game allow 80% attendance, rising to 90% on Saturday and potential full attendance on Sunday. Tickets for the games were discounted by 35% in an effort to encourage fans back to the stadium.

Tokyo 2020 had a 10-man inspection team in place at Yokohama Stadium, as the local organising committee for the Olympics and Paralympics continues to study how it will accommodate fans in the era of COVID-19.

“We saw great teamwork from the people onsite combined with the latest technology available at an official Olympic venue,” said Tokyo 2020 Games delivery officer Nakamura Hidemasa, according to the Olympic Channel

“There is still plenty of work ahead but at the Games next summer, I expect the type of teamwork we saw today (Sunday) and cutting-edge technology to be on full display. It will help us host a safe and secure Games for athletes and spectators alike. There is a lot we can take from this. At the end of the day it’s the people who will make it happen. And you have to like what we saw.”

The results of the trial are set to be shared with the national government, which leads a commission on COVID-19 countermeasures for the Games with the metropolitan government and Tokyo 2020. At Yokohama Stadium, fans were screened at the gates for face masks, body temperature, and hand sanitising. They also entered and exited the stadium in blocks in an effort to avoid crowding.

The latest camera technology was utilised to track the movement of aerosols in the stands, while fans were able to judge which areas of the stadium were crowded at any time via an app. Nakamura said the tests and trials will continue, adding: “We have to keep demonstrating what we are doing and how we are doing it so the world knows what to expect.”

Nippon Professional Baseball Organization and football’s J-League held a meeting today to discuss if the cap on the number of spectators can be eased, with further trials to be held at baseball games on Saturday and Sunday at Tokyo Dome, and Saturday’s J League Cup final in Tokyo.

According to Japanese broadcaster NHK, Professor Mikamo Hiroshige at Aichi Medical University said after the meeting that full capacity is possible at stadia next year with sufficient scientific data provided. He said talks have now moved to a new phase of how to make people feel comfortable while visiting stadiums.

Image: Greg Conquest/CC BY-SA 2.0/Edited for size