Tokyo Games still weigh limits on fans

By Stephen Wade

TOKYO (AP) – The Tokyo Olympic organizing committee signaled on Monday that it will change its ticket policy this week for any local fans hoping to attend. This comes with the pandemic-delayed Olympics opening in just under three weeks.

Organizers, the International Olympic Committee and others are expected to meet this week to announce new restrictions because of the fast-changing coronavirus situation. Organizers said a ticket lottery set for Tuesday was pushed back to Saturday to accommodate any changes.

Fans from abroad were banned months ago from attending.

Two weeks ago organizers, the IOC, and others agreed to allow indoor and outdoor stadiums to be filled to 50% capacity with a ceiling of 10,000. Japanese news reports suggest the maximum may be dropped to 5,000 at all venues.

Some unconfirmed reports have suggested that no fans is still an option and that fan limits for night sessions could be stricter than day sessions.

There are fears that the Olympics could become a super-spreader event with 11,000 Olympic athletes and 4,400 Paralympians entering from more than 200 countries. Tens of thousands of judges, sponsors, broadcasters, and media must also enter.

Officials say that more than 80% of athletes and support staff will be vaccinated.

The more critical problem is the low vaccination rate in Japan, and the probability that holding Olympics events will encourage people to visit bars, restaurants, and use public transportation.

The exact day of the ticket meeting has not been confirmed, but it could come at the same time as IOC President Thomas Bach arrives in Tokyo on Thursday. Bach is to spend his first three days in self-quarantine at a five-star Tokyo hotel.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government on Monday reported 342 new coronavirus cases. It is the 16th straight day that cases were higher than they were a week earlier. On Saturday the capital reported 716 new cases, the highest in five weeks.

The Tokyo government announced last week it was taking the Olympic torch relay off public streets for the first half of its 15-day passage through the capital. Only outlying Tokyo islands were excluded.

Citing an unnamed source, Japan’s Kyodo news said Monday it was likely the second half of the relay leading up to the opening ceremony on July 23 would also be taken off the streets.

The relay began in March in northeastern Japan, but it has been constantly rerouted, taken off the streets, and rescheduled to isolated parks to avoid contact with the public. The relay is heavily sponsored by Coca-Cola and Toyota. Suggestions to cancel the event to save money were floated after the postponement 15 months ago, but failed to gain traction.

Also, basketball player Rui Hachimura and wrestler Yui Susaki will be the flagbearers for Japan at the Tokyo Olympics, the Japanese Olympic Committee said Monday. Hachimura plays for the NBA’s Washington Wizards.

He was raised in Japan by a Japanese mother and a Beninese father. He represents a growing number of mixed race Japanese.