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Tokyo 2020 fan attendance plan to be confirmed in June

Organisers of the rescheduled 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo have today (Wednesday) confirmed that a final decision on domestic fan attendance will be made in June, just weeks before the start of events.

With 86 days left until the opening of the Olympic Games, and 118 days left until the opening of the Paralympic Games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), International Paralympic Committee (IPC), Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Tokyo 2020), Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the Government of Japan today agreed on new measures designed to ensure the safe organisation of the Games.

Included in today’s announcement is an update on the fan attendance situation. Organisers of the Games last week admitted that a final decision on domestic fan attendance may not be made until weeks before it is due to commence – a stance that was effectively confirmed today.

It was announced last month that overseas spectators would not be permitted to attend, but the situation for those in Japan is still uncertain. The rescheduled Olympics are due to take place from July 23 to August 8, with the Paralympics to follow from August 24 to September 5.

Tokyo 2020 had initially pledged to deliver a basic policy regarding maximum venue capacity by the end of April, but the rise in the number of COVID-19 infections in the capital and other major urban areas has complicated this decision.

In a joint statement today, the IOC, IPC, Tokyo 2020, Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the Government of Japan said: “As we look into the evolving situation with the domestic infections status involving new strains, we have agreed that a decision regarding spectator capacity at the Olympic and Paralympic venues will be made in June, in line with the government’s general guidance concerning the upper limit of spectator capacity in sports events.”

Tokyo and several prefectures on Sunday entered into a third state of emergency due to a recent spike in infections. Set to run through to May 11, the latest state of emergency has forced the likes of large commercial facilities, theme parks, karaoke establishments and restaurants serving alcohol to close.

Japan’s vaccination programme only began for those aged 65 and over earlier this month, and it is said it will be impossible for the majority of the general public to be vaccinated by the time the Olympics commence.

In February, Tokyo 2020, the IOC and IPC published the first in a series of masterplans designed to provide guidance for the safe staging of the Games. These ‘playbooks’ have today been reviewed and significantly updated in order to address the emergence of new mutant COVID-19 strains and the evolving situation of the pandemic.

New rules that have to be observed by everyone involved in the Games during their stay in Japan have been incorporated, and others updated, so that the Tokyo 2020 Games can be held safely. Today’s statement added that all parties at the meeting “renewed their full commitment” to safe and secure Games for all participants and the Japanese people.

Meanwhile, in other Japanese news, the organising body of the top division of domestic club football, the J-League, has said it will seek compensation from the Japanese government for losses incurred due to stadia being closed amid the latest state of emergency.

The lockdown measures will see 11 games held behind closed doors in Tokyo and parts of western Japan through to May 11. J-League chairman Mitsuru Murai said his organisation would “work with the government” in an effort to limit the financial impact of the measures. “We will request compensation after calculating the losses from refunding tickets and holding games without spectators,” Murai said, according to the Kyodo news agency.

The J-League has been working in association with Nippon Professional Baseball to coordinate COVID-19 stadium safety measures. This resulted in 1,042 matches taking place last season with fans in attendance and no suspected COVID-19 outbreaks.

Murai expressed his frustration, stating that while he understood the government’s position, the experience of last season had proven that fans could be allowed safely into venues. He added: “We have proven that spectators can be welcomed into stadiums safely. If I had communicated our position more convincingly to the public, it might have made a difference.”