The Tokyo Olympic organizing committee said Monday it would push back the release of the results of a fresh ticket lottery to Saturday, as the capital continues to grapple with a surge of coronavirus infections and the likelihood is high that the number of spectators to be allowed at each venue will be reduced.
The committee, which was initially planning to release the results on Tuesday, and other organizers of the Olympics are expected to hold a meeting possibly this week to review the policy of permitting up to 10,000 spectators per venue.
In a related development, the governor of Hokkaido on Monday asked the organizing body to consider staging marathons and race walk events in Sapporo, the capital of the northernmost main island, without roadside spectators in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.
Hokkaido Gov. Naomichi Suzuki met with officials of the committee, including Vice Director General Hiroshi Sato, requesting they implement strict anti-COVID-19 measures and prevent people from gathering on the roadside for the events between Aug. 5-8.
Due to a resurgence of infections in Tokyo, driven by highly contagious variants of the virus, the organizers are expected to review the spectator cap agreed on late last month, which allows venues to be filled to 50% of capacity with a maximum of 10,000 spectators.
The fresh lottery has been held among ticket holders to determine those eligible to attend 97 sessions, including the opening and closing ceremonies. They make up over 10% of the total sessions.
If the organizers decide to stage the Olympics, set to begin on July 23, without fans in the stands, Suzuki said he wants the policy to be applied to all venues, not just those in Tokyo.
He became the latest governor to urge the organizers to tighten their spectator policy. The governors of Tokyo’s neighboring Chiba and Saitama prefectures have called for events after 9 p.m. to be staged behind closed doors.
Suzuki said he wants the organizers to encourage people to watch the marathons and race walks on TV instead of appearing along the routes.
The Olympics will take place in 10 of Japan’s 47 prefectures. The men’s and women’s marathons and race walk events were moved to Sapporo in 2019 due to concern over the capital’s extreme summer heat.
About 40% of sessions, or time slots, at the Olympics are expected to be held without spectators if the current attendance cap of 10,000 people per venue is lowered to 5,000, according to officials involved in the planning process.
The current ceiling was set in line with the Japanese government’s policy on spectator limits for major events in the country on the premise that Tokyo will no longer be under a quasi-state of emergency beyond its last day of next Sunday.
However, Japan is leaning toward keeping the quasi-state of emergency covering the Tokyo metropolitan area in place during the Olympics, government officials said Sunday.
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.
The five organizing parties, including the International Olympic Committee, and the central and metropolitan governments, could hold a meeting as early as Thursday to review the attendance cap.
On that day, the government could formally decide on the extension of the quasi-state of emergency and the IOC president is scheduled to arrive in Japan.
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