A maximum of 10,000 fans who live in Japan will be allowed at each event of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, organizers announced Monday, even as health officials warn the global sporting event could worsen the COVID-19 outbreak in Japan.
The International Olympic Committee and Tokyo officials said each event can be filled up to 50 percent capacity, with a cap of 10,000 spectators.
The officials warned that plans for the Olympics, which starts July 23, could change if infections in Japan surge.
“We need to be very flexible. If there is any abrupt change in the situation, we will hold five-party meetings again to make other decisions,” Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee, said. “If there is an announcement of a state of emergency during the Games, all the options like no-spectator games will be examined.”
Japan had been grappling with a growing outbreak for weeks amid a slower-than-expected vaccine rollout.
Medical experts who have been advising the Japanese government on COVID-19 safety precautions recommended Friday that the Olympics be held without spectators. Dr. Shigeru Omi, the country’s top medical adviser, said the safest way to hold the Olympics would be without fans.
A May survey by a Japanese newspaper showed that 43 percent of Japanese people thought the Olympics should be canceled outright, while 40 percent said it should be postponed again. Just 14 percent supported holding the games this summer.
In the same poll, 59 percent of respondents said no spectators should be allowed, while 33 percent supported limited spectators and just 3 percent wanted full capacity.
But daily new cases of the virus have flattened and the pace of vaccinations has picked up in recent days, easing some concerns.
The officials added Monday that fans at the Olympics will be under strict rules to keep the virus in check. Officials said local fans will not be allowed to cheer, must wear masks and will be asked to go straight home after the event.
Toshiro Muto, CEO of the organizing committee, estimated that the cap on the number of fans allowed will cut the expected revenue from ticket sales in half to no more than $400 million.
The Japanese government has already sunk billions into the Olympics, and officials hope to recoup some losses from selling broadcast rights to the event, as well as sponsorships.