As COVID-19 cases continue to surge in Tokyo, games officials have said about 40% of the sessions during the Olympics may be held without spectators as the government is finding it increasingly difficult to stick with their plans to cap attendance at 10,000 people.
The most likely option now on the table is to allow up to 5,000 domestic fans at each venue of the Olympics, due to begin July 23. The estimate of 40% is based on the assumption that all events with over 5,000 ticket holders and those taking place after 9 p.m. will be held behind closed doors, according to the officials.
Such events include the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as baseball, soccer and track and field. There are a total of 750 sessions and more than 300 of them will be staged without spectators if the revised cap is applied, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The organizers of the Tokyo Games, also including the metropolitan government, the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee, made the unprecedented decision to bar spectators from overseas in March.
In an attempt to prevent the Olympics from becoming a global superspreader event, the five organizing bodies decided late last month that venues can be filled to 50% of their capacity up to a maximum of 10,000 domestic spectators, while agreeing that the ceiling will be reviewed if the coronavirus pandemic situation worsens.
The attendance cap was set on the premise that the ongoing quasi-state of emergency in Tokyo would be lifted by the time the games open.
Under the emergency, the number of people allowed at sports and other big events is restricted to 50% of venue capacity with an upper limit of 5,000 people.
Daily COVID-19 cases in Tokyo have been rebounding since a state of emergency was lifted last month and the government appears likely to extend the current quasi-emergency that is set to expire on July 11.
If the government decides on the extension, representatives of the five organizers could hold a meeting as early as next Thursday to discuss what to do with the spectator cap.
While a number of influential medical experts have warned of a surge in infections before and after the start of the Olympics, there are also some officials of the organizers who have pushed for a blanket no-spectator option.
“It will be better to have no spectators from the beginning than to switch to no spectators after a state of emergency is declared during the games,” one of the officials said.
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