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Editorial: Decision to allow spectators at Tokyo Olympics totally irresponsible

  • June 22, 2021
  • , The Mainichi
  • English Press

The Tokyo Olympics can go ahead with spectators attending, a meeting of representatives from five bodies including the organizing committee and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has ruled. Each venue will allow 50% or less of their maximum capacity, with a 10,000-person maximum limit.


This decision openly rejects the views of experts on how to prevent coronavirus infections from spreading, and may even make a mockery of ideas of safety.


In regions where state of emergency declarations and quasi-emergency measures have been lifted, sports events held by Nippon Professional Baseball, J-League and other bodies have gone ahead for about a month with limits of 50% or lower capacity, capped at 10,000 people. The Olympic decision keeps the same maximum limits.


But experts oppose the measures, and say the games should not be set at the same level as domestic sports. This is because the Olympics constitute a mass concentration of many sporting disciplines; its scale is on another level, with far-reaching effects in many areas.


But on top of the 10,000-person maximum possible general audience for the games’ opening ceremony at the 68,000-seat Japan National Stadium, members of the IOC and other sponsor-connected individuals will also attend in large numbers.


From the perspective of infection prevention, what’s important is not the difference between who is an audience member or an event-connected person, but how many people will gather at the venue. If many people with Olympic connections do attend, infection risks become greater.


Key experts including the government COVID-19 subcommittee chairperson Shigeru Omi have put it to the government and organizing committee that holding the games without spectators is the least risky option. They also said that if audiences were to be allowed, controls would have to be stricter than domestic standards.


The Tokyo Medical Association is also deeply concerned about pressure on the health care system, and has presented the organizing committee and other bodies with its views in writing, such as that the games should be held without spectators or canceled depending on the state of infections.


To restrict the movement of people, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has canceled all public viewing events it had planned in the capital. This was the obvious choice.


If a state of emergency or quasi-emergency measures were to be announced immediately ahead of the games starting, then the five entities would review whether to hold the events without fans. But there are fears it will already be too late if a response is taken only after a new declaration.


Tomorrow, June 23, will mark one month to the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Foot traffic in the capital is rising, and some are asserting that there are signs of COVID-19 cases resurging. If the government and organizing committee don’t review their decision, and don’t make a spectator-less games their clear position, then we will have no recourse but to say they are irresponsible.

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