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Japan May Ban Spectators at the Tokyo Olympic Games

Tokyo Olympics spectators
Potential Tokyo Olympics spectators’ hopes may be dashed if the coronavirus situation in the city does not improve. Credit: Angelos Zymaras/Hellenic Olympic Committee

The Tokyo Olympics planned spectator limit of 10,000 people is to be reevaluated, with the possibility of having no spectators at all still on the table.

Sources confirmed on Friday that the Japanese government and other organizers of the Tokyo Olympics are planning to host a meeting next week, on July 8, to discuss the issue.

Tokyo Olympics may go ahead without spectators

With Tokyo still in lockdown and coronavirus cases rising steadily since mid-June, it is still unclear what the fate of the Olympics will be.

Although the Tokyo 2020 organizers and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced a 10,000 person cap on spectators at this year’s sporting event, this decision could still be reversed.

This announcement was made when Tokyo was experiencing very low daily new instances of the coronavirus, and may not hold up in the ever-changing coronavirus context.

The Japanese Prime Minister, speaking to the press, made it very clear that the Tokyo Olympics may go ahead without any spectators at all.

“I have made clear that having no spectators is a possibility,” Yoshihide Suga, the Prime Minister of Japan, said. “We will take steps as we prioritise the safety and security of the people.”

Following the end of state-of-emergency restrictions in multiple regions at the end of May, covid infections have been on the rise in the island country. Tokyo has been particularly hard hit, with new daily infections in the capital exceeding 700 on Wednesday for the first time since May.

The Olympics could mean a sharp increase in cases for a country which already has its fair share of domestic cases. The influx of thousands of athletes, journalists, and other people associated with the event could mean a lasting issue for the country.

A new study by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases working with university researchers was published last week. The study forecasts that even in the best case scenario, cases in the capital city will likely reach 1,000 per day in July and 2,000 in August.

A further increase in cases due to the Olympic Games could mean that hospital beds could run out in Tokyo by August, according to the same study.

This disturbing new information may mean the Tokyo Olympics ban spectators entirely.

Games proceeding despite concerns

Japan will proceed with the Tokyo 2020 Olympics despite concerns raised by Japanese health officials and others from around the world who worry about the outcome of such an enormous global event while the pandemic is still raging there.

The Games have been postponed once already in 2020 due to the pandemic.

“It’s not normal to have the Olympics in a situation like this,” said Shigeru Omi, Japan’s senior adviser on the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Omi did not say outright that the games should be cancelled, but strongly believes that they pose a risk of elevated infection rates in Japan.

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