Japanese fans will be allowed at Tokyo Olympics, despite concerns from medical experts

There will be fans at the Tokyo Olympics.

Organizers announced Monday that a limited number of Japanese fans will be allowed at the Olympic Games, which begin July 23. The number will be capped at 50 percent of venue capacity, with a maximum of 10,000 spectators.

Fans will be required to wear masks at all times in venues, and shouting or even speaking in a loud voice will be prohibited. Fans will leave venues at staggered times, and will be urged to go directly home. It’s still being discussed whether alcohol will be sold during events.

If COVID-19 cases rise again, or another state of emergency in Tokyo is declared, Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto said organizers will re-examine their decision on fans.

“We acknowledge there is uncertainty on the situation around the pandemic during the Games,” Hashimoto said, “so we need to be very flexible.”

A decision on how many fans can attend the Paralympics, which begin Aug. 24, will be made by July 16.

With COVID-19 cases surging, the International Olympic Committee and Tokyo 2020 officials announced in March that spectators from abroad would not be allowed at the Olympics and Paralympics. Though officials said then they would make a decision later on fans from Japan, repeated delays on the announcement and continuing states of emergencies in Tokyo and other parts of the country had led to speculation that the Games might be held without any fans at all.

On Friday, Dr. Shigeru Omi, the top medical adviser to the Japanese government, said the safest way to hold the Games was without fans. Omi said he was concerned both about the risk of spread inside the venues, as well as from people traveling to events and gathering afterward.

“Regardless of holding the Olympics or not, Japan has continuing risks of a resurgence of the infections that puts pressure on the medical systems,” Omi, a former World Health Organization official, said at a news conference.

But organizers were eager to have any fans, even if it’s far fewer than they initially hoped. Local organizers get the revenue from ticket sales, and Tokyo 2020 had originally budgeted that to be $800 million. If there’s a shortfall, it will have to be made up by the Japanese, and that will balloon the cost for the Games even further.

The official cost is $15.4 billion, but it’s believed to be much higher – perhaps twice as much.

Tokyo organizers also pointed to the fact that other Japanese sporting events are being held with fans. The Summer Grand Sumo Tournament, for example, was allowed to have up to 5,000 fans last month. The All Japan Apparatus Championships, held earlier this month about two hours north of Tokyo, also had spectators.

“There are so many cases, domestically and internationally, where sports events are held with spectators,” Hashimoto said. “By exercising thorough measures, based on the government’s criteria, we believe we can hold the Games with spectators.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Tokyo Olympics to allow Japanese fans at venues despite COVID worries

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