Tokyo Olympics organizers said Monday they will reduce the number of athletes at the opening and closing ceremonies of the postponed Summer Games, with a report saying thousands fewer than originally planned will attend.
More than 11,000 athletes are expected to compete at the Tokyo Games, but measures in place that will limit the time they can spend in the Olympic Village — a countermeasure to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection — means not all will be able to attend the opening and closing ceremonies.
Organizers said they would also “reconsider” how many athletes can take part in the ceremonies and how to get them into the stadium safely.
“In order to ensure the safety and security of the athletes and simplify operations at the Tokyo 2020 Games, we believe it is necessary to reconsider the number of participants at the opening and closing ceremonies and how they will enter the stadium,” the organizing committee said in a statement.
A report in the Yomiuri Shimbun, citing unidentified sources, on Monday said the International Olympic Committee expects only 6,000 athletes to take part in the opening ceremony on July 23.
Tokyo 2020 organizers said details are still being worked out in discussions with the IOC and other organizations, and “a specific approach has not been decided yet.”
The organizing committee has insisted the games can go ahead even if the virus has not been brought under control, and unveiled a raft of antivirus measures in a 53-page interim report in December.
Athletes cannot check in to the Olympic Village — which can accommodate 18,000 people — more than five days before their event, and must leave two days after finishing their competition.
A surge in infections in Japan and elsewhere around the world has cast more doubt over the games, just over six months before the opening ceremony.
Last week, a cabinet minister admitted “anything can happen” with the games, while reports over the weekend said a former IOC vice-president suggested the United Nations could be consulted about whether the event should go ahead.
Public support for the Olympics has plummeted in Japan, with a poll earlier this month finding that more than 80% believe the event should be canceled or postponed again.
Government spokesman Katsunobu Kato said Monday that Japan is committed to holding the games as scheduled.
“There is no change in the government’s stance on the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics,” he said.
“The people in charge of the games are united in preparing for them to be a success and the government will take appropriate measures to support them.”
In late December, Tokyo 2020 chiefs picked a new creative director to redesign “simpler and more restrained” opening and closing ceremonies.
Organizers said the decision to replace a previous seven-person creative team would improve efficiency and reshape the traditionally lavish ceremonies to be “in tune with the situation.”
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