Tokyo Games spectacle may be further downgraded by pandemic

Visitors look at newly installed Olympic rings to celebrate the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Yokohama, Japan on June 30, 2021. REUTERS / Kim Kyung-Hoon

  • Japan could ban everything but VIP spectators for Games opening – Asahi
  • The government is expected to decide this week to extend the quasi-emergency rules
  • The torch relay must be removed from the public road – Yomiuri

TOKYO, July 6 (Reuters) – Japan plans to ban all spectators except VIPs at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, a newspaper said on Tuesday, further degradation for Games including pomp and public spectacle are overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Once promoted as an extravaganza to introduce Japan to the world, the Games appear to be in danger of being largely held out of public view in a country closed to foreign tourists due to the pandemic.

The Games, already delayed by a year, are set to open on July 23 despite fears that an influx of tens of thousands from around the world could trigger a new wave of infections.

The Japanese government is hosting the opening ceremony with only a reduced number of VIP spectators, the Asahi newspaper reported, ahead of discussions with the International Olympic Committee and other organizers.

Large hall events and nightly events after 9 p.m. would also go without spectators, while the number of personalities such as guests from sponsors and diplomats at the opening ceremony would be sharply reduced from an initial estimate. about 10,000, the newspaper said, citing several unidentified government sources.

Organizers have already banned overseas spectators and set a cap for domestic spectators at 50% capacity, up to 10,000 people. Medical experts said holding the Games without spectators would be the “least risky” option.

The Japanese government is expected to decide on Thursday to extend the state of near-emergency in Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures beyond an initial end date of July 11, government sources said, a move that would also require an overhaul of policies. spectators.

That issue will be decided in five-party talks also expected on Thursday, which will include Tokyo Governor and IOC President Thomas Bach, who arrives in Japan on the same day.


When the Games were postponed last year, Japanese officials said they hoped they would be seen as a symbol of humanity’s “victory” over the virus. With that elusive goal, they now say the event will help bring together a divided world.

In another move, the Olympic Torch Relay, which is due to reach Tokyo on July 9 and march through the city center from July 17 until the opening ceremony, will be moved from public roads throughout the period and to the square of the torch-lighting ceremonies will be held without spectators, the Yomiuri newspaper reported.

Plans for the opening ceremony remain secret. A startup backed by Toyota Motor Corp said in 2017 that it aims to light the Olympic flame with its flying car.

In 2015, then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promised visitors could use self-driving cars to navigate Tokyo. The event, he said, would be a “one buy, two” event, showcasing both the Games and autonomous driving technology.

Asked about the spectators, government spokesman Katsunobu Kato noted at a press conference that Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said that holding the Games without spectators was a “possibility” if the state of emergency was to be met. in force.

Suga was keen to have fans in the stadiums, Asahi said, but added that some members of the ruling party were in favor of a complete ban, especially after the ruling coalition failed to win the election. majority in Sunday’s Tokyo local assembly elections, in part due to voter dissatisfaction. with the government’s COVID-19 response.

This poll is seen as an indicator for a general election later this year.

Japan has not experienced explosive outbreaks of COVID-19 elsewhere, but has recorded more than 800,000 cases and more than 14,800 deaths. Only a quarter of its population received at least one vaccination after an initially slow deployment.

Additional reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka and David Dolan; Editing by Lincoln Feast.

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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