The pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics are shaping up as a TV-only event with few fans — if any — being allowed when they open in just over two weeks. Japan's Asahi newspaper, citing multiple unidentified government sources, said on Tuesday the opening ceremony at the 68,000-seat National Stadium is likely to be limited only to VIP guests. The Olympics open on July 23.
The newspaper said other large venues are likely to have no fans. Smaller venues are expected to allow some fans. Tokyo organizers and the International Olympic Committee are expected to announce the policy after a meeting this week that is likely to take place on Thursday. The IOC and organisers two weeks ago announced that venues could be filled up to 50 per cent capacity with a ceiling of 10,000.
But surging virus numbers in Tokyo are forcing a rollback. The IOC earns almost 75 per cent of its income from selling TV rights and will still generate USD 3 billion to USD 4 billion in income from a television-only event. Fans from abroad were banned several months as being to risky during a pandemic. Dr Shigeru Omi, a top government medical adviser, has said the least risky Olympics would be with no fans. He also said it was "abnormal" to hold the Olympics during a pandemic.
The newspaper said the no-spectators policy could apply to events that take place after 9 pm and to larger venues where 50 per cent of capacity exceeds 5,000. VIPS, sponsors and others dignitaries will be allowed to attend the opening ceremony and other venues, but the newspaper said these numbers could also be reduced. The newspaper said this "special category" was about 10,000 people.
Organising committee chief executive Toshiro Muto said two week ago that VIPs would be allowed into venues — over an above any spectator cap — and are classified as "organisers" and not spectators. "There are many stakeholders of the IOC and so forth. People related to key clients. And for those people they are regarded as organizers of the games and they are not spectators," Muto said.
About 11,000 Olympic athletes and 4,400 Paralympians will need to enter Tokyo, along with tens of thousands of coaches, administrators, broadcasters, and media. The decision on fans could some the same day that IOC President Thomas Bach arrives in Tokyo. Bach it to self-isolate for three days in a five-star Tokyo hotel. The government is also expected this week to extend quasi-state of emergency measures, which end on July 11.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government on Monday reported 342 new coronavirus cases. It was the 16th straight day that cases were higher than they were a week earlier. On Saturday the capital reported 716 new cases, the highest in five weeks.