The pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics are shaping up to be a televised-only event with few if any spectators allowed to open in just over two weeks.
Japanese newspaper Asahi, citing several unidentified government sources, said on Tuesday that the opening ceremony at the 68,000-seat national stadium will likely be limited to VIP guests only. The Olympics open on July 23.
The newspaper said other large venues are unlikely to have spectators. Smaller rooms should allow some spectators.
Tokyo organizers and the International Olympic Committee are expected to announce the policy after a meeting likely Thursday.
Two weeks ago, they announced that theaters could be filled up to 50% of their capacity with a cap of 10,000. But the increase in the number of viruses in Tokyo is forcing a step back.
The IOC derives nearly 75 percent of its revenue from television rights and will generate another $ 3-4 billion in revenue from an exclusively televised event.
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Fans from overseas were banned months ago.
Dr Shigeru Omi, one of the government’s top medical advisers, said the least risky Olympics would be without spectators. He also said it was “abnormal” to hold the Olympics during a pandemic.
VIPs considered as organizers, not as spectators
Asahi said the no-spectator policy could apply to events that take place after 9 p.m. and to larger venues where 50 percent of the capacity exceeds 5,000.
VIPs, sponsors and other dignitaries will be allowed to attend the opening ceremony and other venues, but the newspaper said those numbers could be reduced as well. The newspaper said that this “special category” numbered around 10,000 people.
The general manager of the organizing committee, Toshiro Muto, said two weeks ago that VIPs would be allowed to enter venues – above any spectator cap – and were classified as “organizers” and not as spectators. .
“There are many stakeholders in the IOC and so on. People related to key customers. And for those people, they are seen as organizers of the games and not spectators,” Muto said.
Yoshiro Mori, the former chairman of the organizing committee, in an interview with Japanese television station TBS, said he had suggested a spectator-free Olympics to other politicians in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
“I had said that we had to develop plans based on the absence of spectators,” he said.
Bach is going to isolate himself in a 5-star hotel
Mori, a former prime minister, was forced to resign five months ago as chairman of the organizing committee after being criticized for making “inappropriate” comments about women.
Approximately 11,000 Olympic athletes and 4,400 Paralympians will enter Tokyo, along with tens of thousands of coaches, administrators, broadcasters and media.
The spectator decision could come on the same day, Thursday, that IOC President Thomas Bach arrives in Tokyo. Bach must isolate himself for three days in a five-star hotel in Tokyo.
The Tokyo organizing committee also announced on Tuesday that it would not allow any roadside viewing of the marches or marathons in the northern city of Sapporo. Events were moved two years ago due to concerns about Tokyo’s hot and humid summers. Bach and the IOC’s decision was hotly contested by Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike.
“It is unfortunate for those who hoped to see the best athletes in the world here in Sapporo up close and cheer them on,” said Hokkaido Governor Naomichi Suzuki.
The government is also expected to extend the quasi-state of emergency measures that end on Sunday this week.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government reported 593 new cases of the coronavirus on Tuesday. It was the 17th day in a row that cases were higher than they were a week earlier. On Saturday, the capital reported 716 new cases, the highest in five weeks.
The Tokyo government also confirmed on Tuesday that it will take the Olympic torch relay off the streets for all legs in the capital. These steps were to start on Friday. The exception is for events on the small islands off the mainland of Tokyo.
The relay has been reprogrammed, hijacked and sequestered several times in public parks away from the public since its launch in March from northeastern Japan. The event is heavily sponsored by Coca-Cola and Toyota. There were suggestions after the postponement that it be canceled, but these ideas were quickly rejected.