Tokyo Olympics organizers are leaning to ban spectators from nightly events and large-scale venues amid fears about the spread of Covid-19.
Polls show a majority of Japanese oppose holding the Olympics, given warnings from health experts that it could spark another wave of infections.
The Games are scheduled to start on July 23, after a year of delay due to the pandemic.
The governors of Chiba and Saitama prefectures, near Tokyo, have already urged organizers to ban spectators from nightly events in their localities.
Meanwhile, the Japanese prime minister also said the games could take place behind closed doors.
Yoshihide Suga admitted that there was the “possibility” that there would be no spectators at the events.
It comes as a leading epidemiologist has warned that the Olympics could be a mass-market event if authorities do not handle visitor screening carefully.
Professor Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, said authorities must exercise caution in dealing with crowds at the stadium.
Olympics organizers lean to ban fans from attending nightly Games events
There are fears that spectators at the Olympics could turn it into a ‘super-broadcaster’ event
The fan ban request is under discussion and a decision will be made in five-party talks that will include the governor of Tokyo, the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the president of Tokyo 2020.
The talks will take place on July 8, the Kyodo news agency reported. The government is also expected to launch an appeal next week on the advisability of lifting the state of “quasi-emergency”.
Organizers pledged to make the Games “safe and secure”, arguing that other major sporting events were held safely.
Although they have banned foreign spectators, they have so far decided to limit the number of domestic spectators to 10,000 per venue for the Games, or 50% of the capacity, despite medical experts claiming that no spectators are allowed to attend. would be the “least risky” option.
Leaving aside concerns that the Olympics could become a “super-broadcaster” event, Sebastian Coe, president of World Athletics and IOC member, told CNBC on Thursday that the Games “will and should continue” .
Japan move forward with hosting Games, despite public opposition and warnings
But Euro 2020 – which was blamed this week for an increase in Cocid-19 cases as fans flocked to stadiums, bars and spectator areas across Europe – is likely to further fuel the crowd. concerns in Japan.
The governor of Hokkaido, in northern Japan, said he would prefer people not to watch the marathon along its routes in Sapporo city and asked organizers to come up with safety protocols.
Government spokesman Katsunobu Kato, when asked about the comments, said he would “follow the discussions” between the organizers and the local authorities.
Prime Minister Suga added: “There may be no spectators. Either way, we will act with the safety and security of the Japanese people as our top priority. ‘
Renowned epidemiologist Professor Hunter has warned officials need to be careful how they deal with crowds.
He told MailOnline: “From a public health perspective, if a large number of people enter and leave Japan because of the Olympics, it will increase the likelihood of the Delta variant spreading to countries that do not have it. not currently.
“It’s a big risk, especially for Japan. “
If that could turn into a super broadcast event, he added, “They might, depending on how they handle the situation, how much they control the venues and how much they control the people moving around. “
Protesters gather at Akarenga Park in Yokohama, Japan on Wednesday during a protest against the Tokyo 2020 Olympics as coronavirus restrictions may remain in place
Japan is likely to extend its Covid-19 measures in the greater Tokyo area by two weeks or more after the current July 11 deadline, government sources have said.
Japan does not hesitate to extend the borders in Tokyo, but “it makes no sense if it does not have an impact,” Health Minister Norihisa Tamura told reporters.
Japan did not experience the explosive outbreak seen elsewhere, but the potential spread of variants and a slow initial vaccine rollout fueled concerns.
The Tokyo government reported 660 new cases yesterday – on day three, it surpassed 500.
This means the city is in Stage 4 of government, which is its most severe category for the pandemic.