• Kyodo

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Japanese Olympians and sporting figures welcomed the decision on Monday to allow up to 10,000 spectators at the Tokyo Olympics venues, voicing their appreciation for the measure taken amid lingering public concerns over coronavirus infections.

“I’m happy just to have the games going ahead and the spectators watching us, so I’m thankful to have the support even with the 50% cap,” women’s rugby player Wakaba Hara said.

Rhythmic gymnast Sayuri Sugimoto welcomed the news as she vowed to come up with a display also for those who cannot be at venues.

“Our sport is one to captivate people. We’ll look to put in a performance that can be felt through TVs too, and it will be great if we can energize them,” she said.

There were positive reactions from coaching staff who backed the presence of the fans to provide extra motivation for athletes.

“I felt fans’ cheers provided (players with) power when we played international matches, so I hope many come over,” Nadeshiko Japan head coach Asako Takakura said.

Satoshi Deguchi, Japan’s BMX freestyle cycling coach, echoed that sentiment.

“The athletes get excited more when there are spectators and are able to give their best performance. I’m starting to get the feel of the games (approaching) with many things getting decided,” Deguchi said.

The spectator cap was set at below 50% of the venue’s full capacity and 10,000 at maximum during an online five-party meeting involving Tokyo 2020 organizers, metropolitan and national governments, the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee.

Organizers also agreed to consider the possibility of holding the Olympics without spectators should the infection situation worsen before or after the start of the games on July 23.

Shigeki Nishiguchi, the head of development at the Japan Wrestling Federation, said athletes should try not to be influenced by whether or not there are fans inside the venues.

“We cannot ask too much even if they were to decide at the last minute to hold them without spectators. I’m telling my wrestlers not to be affected,” he said.

Soccer’s J. League, along with Nippon Professional Baseball, has been leading the effort to get fans into domestic sporting events since the start of the pandemic, and its chairman Mitsuru Murai was happy to offer further support to the Tokyo Games.

“It will be pleasing for us if they cited our knowledge and that contributes to the safe operation of the games,” he said. “It will be a good opportunity to show that there are merits sports can offer to the people.”

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