The issue of allowing all fans to enter the Tokyo Olympic venues is still under debate with a decision not expected to be announced until the end of the month.
It would only be a few weeks before the opening of the Olympics on July 23. Fans overseas have already been banned from what is shaping up to be the Olympics largely made for television.
Tokyo and several prefectures are in a state of emergency until June 20. Infections have slowed recently, but the spread of variants remains a concern that could put pressure on already stressed medical facilities.
Dr Nobuhiko Okabe, director general of the Kawasaki City Public Health Institute, suggested on Friday that he would lean for a few fans. He spoke at a panel set up by the Tokyo Olympic Games Organizing Committee.
“Thinking differently, I think it’s an option to suggest to people to enjoy games on TV – like telecommuting,” he said. “We could suggest a different way to enjoy the games.”
Okabe said it’s not just about the fans in theaters, but what they do after they leave – head for bars or restaurants.
“We don’t want people to move around a lot,” he said. “This is our wish as we reflect on anti-virus measures.”
Organizing committee chairperson Seiko Hashimoto initially said she would announce a decision in April regarding local fans, but repeatedly postponed it.
Ticket sales were to represent $ 800 million in revenue for the organizing committee. Much of this will be lost and will have to be compensated by Japanese government entities.
Japan is officially spending $ 15.4 billion to host the Olympics, although government audits suggest the figure is much higher. Everything but $ 6.7 billion is public money.
The Switzerland-based International Olympic Committee derives nearly 75% of its revenue from the sale of broadcast rights, which is the driving force behind the games and the urgency to host them during a pandemic.
Japanese newspaper JiJi Press reported on Friday, without citing sources, that Dr Shigeru Omi would issue a report next week warning of the risks of having fans. He is a former regional director for the World Health Organization and head of a government task force on the virus.
Speaking at a parliamentary session last week, he said “it is crucial that we do not let the Olympics trigger a flow of people”.
Hashimoto warned that there could be penalties for anyone breaking the strict rules around the Tokyo Games. She didn’t say what they would be and said it was still under discussion.
The protocol for anyone entering Japan for the Olympics requires frequent testing, limited movement, and GPS monitoring on smartphones.
This includes everyone from athletes and journalists to staff and other officials working on the games.
Approximately 11,000 athletes will participate in the Olympic Games, including 4,400 for the Paralympic Games. Tens of thousands more will also enter Japan for the two events. Organizers say the total figure for the two events – athletes included – is around 93,000.
Organizers say this is about half of the expected initial total of 180,000.
“In order for Japanese citizens to feel safe, there are some hard and fast rules that we have to either set up,” Hashimoto said. “We would like to avoid having to penalize people, but we need to take tough action. “