‘No spectators safest option for Tokyo Olympics’

Published June 19, 2021
TOKYO 2020 Olympics Organising Committee president Seiko Hashimoto bows upon her arrival at the fourth roundtable meeting with medical experts to discuss on coronavirus disease countermeasures on Friday.—Reuters
TOKYO 2020 Olympics Organising Committee president Seiko Hashimoto bows upon her arrival at the fourth roundtable meeting with medical experts to discuss on coronavirus disease countermeasures on Friday.—Reuters

TOKYO: The safest way to hold the Tokyo Olympics is without any fans, the top medical adviser to the Japanese government said in a report on Friday.

Dr. Shigeru Omi’s recommendation seems to put him at odds with organisers and the International Olympic Comm­ittee with the Olympics opening in just five weeks on July 23.

Fans from abroad were banned several months ago, and organisers are to announce early next week if some local fans should be allowed.

“We believe the risks of infections inside venues would be lowest by holding the event with no fans,” said the report, which was compiled by a group of 26 experts led by Omi, a former World Health Organisation official. It was submitted to the government and Olympic officials.

Widely circulated reports say the government wants to allow up to 10,000 people at some sports and cultural events. This policy is expected to be applied to the Olympics with smaller ceilings at smaller venues, and differences for indoor and outdoor venues.

“We believe it would be most desirable not to have fans inside venues,” Omi told a news conference on Friday after submitting the written report. Regardless of holding the Olympics or not, Japan has continuing risks of a resurgence of the infections that puts pressure on the medical systems.

Omi said that putting fans in the venues increased the risk and not only there but afterward as people exit. He said the Olympics easily get more attention from the public than other sporting events and are likely to trigger more movements and more partying.

Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the local organising committee, said that the final decision on fans was likely to be made on Monday in a meeting with organisers, the IOC, the Tokyo metropolitan government, the Japanese government, and the International Paralympic Committee.

Hashimoto said if Tokyo decides to allow fans, the rules will have to be much stricter than for half-filled stadiums in Japan for baseball or football. She also said organisers would have to be ready to suddenly ban local fans if conditions change.

“Dr. Omi has indicated that ideally the best way is to hold the games without spectators that was his recommendation,” Hashimoto said. “But if we are to hold the games with spectators, Dr. Omi also had his recommendations.”

Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2021

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