The organizers set a limit of 50% of the capacity up to a maximum of 10,000 fans for all Olympic venues.
The move was announced after so-called five-party talks online with local organizers, the International Olympic Committee, the International Paralympic Committee, the Japanese government and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.
The decision contradicts the country’s top medical adviser, Dr Shigeru Omi, who recommended last week that the safest way to host the Olympics would be without fans. He had previously described as “abnormal” to organize the Olympics during the pandemic.
The Tokyo Games will open on July 23.
Local organizing committee chairman Seiko Hashimoto said it was important to recognize the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic during the games.
“We have to be very flexible. If the situation suddenly changes, we will organize five-party meetings again to make other decisions, ”Hashimoto said. “If there is an announcement of a state of emergency during the games, all options like games without spectators will be considered. “
Fans from overseas were banned several months ago. Officials say local fans will be subject to strict rules. They will not be allowed to applaud, must wear masks and are told to go straight home afterwards.
Organizers say between 3.6 and 3.7 million tickets are in the hands of Japanese residents.
Having fans at venues poses a risk of spreading COVID-19 infections, and not just at venues, as it causes more traffic on suburban trains, restaurants and other public spaces.
Tokyo and other areas are under “near emergency” status until July 11. This replaced a more stringent comprehensive state of emergency that was in effect until last weekend. The new rules will allow restaurants to serve alcohol for limited hours.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who preferred to allow fans, said ahead of the official announcement that he would ban fans if conditions changed.
“If a state of emergency is required, I will be flexible and open to no fans so that the games put the safety and security of people first,” Suga said. “In a state of emergency, it is quite possible… for safe and secure (games), I will not hesitate not to have fans. “
He said he took Omi’s recommendations “seriously” but did not follow them.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike also said ahead of the talks that fans may have to be banned if conditions change.
“As part of this COVID-19 pandemic, the people of Tokyo, the people of Japan, are feeling very uncomfortable. We have concerns and the experts are also making recommendations on the risk of the infection spreading, ”Koike said. “If there were to be a major change in the health situation or the infection situation, we need to reconsider this issue among ourselves and we may need to consider the option of not having spectators at the venues. “
In recent polls, support appears to be increasing for hosting the Olympics, although opposition is strong, depending on the wording of the question. A poll by the Asahi newspaper on June 19 and 20 of nearly 1,500 people showed that 62% were in favor of another postponement or cancellation of the games. But about a third supported hosting the Olympics, up from 14% in May in the same poll.
In the same survey, 83% said they “feel uncomfortable” that the Olympics can spread the virus. The poll said 53% didn’t want fans and 42% said attendance should be limited.
The seven-day average for new infections in Tokyo is around 400 per day. The curve has flattened, but health officials fear the Olympics and new variations will push it up.
About 6.5% of Japanese are fully vaccinated and 16.5% have had at least one injection, according to figures from the Prime Minister’s Office. More than 14,000 deaths in Japan have been attributed to COVID-19.