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Organizers mull Tokyo Games options as ‘crunch time’ looms

  • June 4, 2020
  • , The Japan News , 3:09 p.m.
  • English Press

The government and the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee are considering an option of simplifying some elements of hosting the international sports festival, such as by reducing spectator numbers and scaling back the opening and closing ceremonies, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.


Although the two bodies will continue aiming to hold the Olympics and Paralympics in their “complete form” in the summer of 2021, they decided that a review of how the Games are to be held also will be fleshed out, given that the global spread of the new coronavirus infections could be long-lasting, according to multiple sources in the government and the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.


Specific proposals likely to be considered for streamlining the Games include reducing the number of spectators in competition venues, and cutting the number of participants in the opening and closing ceremonies, which also could be shortened.


In a bid to prevent the spread of the virus during the Games, the government and the committee also will consider calling for athletes, Olympic officials and all spectators to undergo PCR tests. Another plan being floated would place restrictions on athletes leaving the Olympic and Paralympic Village, where they will stay in Tokyo.


The committee is expected to soon start holding discussions in earnest with the International Olympic Committee and other entities on issues including steps such as a possible streamlining of the Games.


Since the decision in March to postpone the Games for about one year due to the pandemic, the Japanese government has insisted on holding a “complete” Olympics and Paralympics. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gained support for this position from leaders of the Group of Seven major nations during a video conference on March 16.


Abe has explained that a “complete” Games means an event in which athletes can compete after preparing fully, and spectators can enjoy the excitement of competition that has not been reduced in scale. However, mass-production of a coronavirus vaccine is thought to be essential for hosting the Games in a “complete form,” so if the government continues to stick rigidly to this approach, it could jeopardize Tokyo’s hosting of the Olympics itself.


In a recent interview with the BBC, IOC President Thomas Bach indicated the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics would have to be canceled if they cannot be held in the summer of 2021. John Coates, chairman of the IOC’s Coordination Commission for the Tokyo Games, said in an interview with The Australian newspaper, that October loomed as “crunch time” to assess whether Tokyo could go ahead with the Games next year.


Consequently, the government decided it had no option but to thoroughly implement infection prevention measures and consider methods to ensure the Games could be held without spreading the virus both in Japan and overseas.


“The top priority is to avoid the worst-case scenario of the Games being canceled,” a government source told The Yomiuri Shimbun.

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