The new president of the Tokyo Olympic organising committee has stopped short of saying there’ll be no foreign fans at this year’s Games – but she certainly hinted at it after online talks with IOC President Thomas Bach and others.
The Japanese newspaper Mainichi reported on Wednesday (local time) that the decision had already been made to exclude foreign fans. It cited only unnamed sources “involved in the discussions.”
“If the situation is tough and it would make the (Japanese) consumers concerned, that is a situation we need to avoid from happening,” organising committee president Seiko Hashimoto said on Wednesday.
She added that a decision on foreign fans will come by the end of the month, and she wants one by March 25, when the torch relay begins from northeastern Japan.
“In the current situation it is impossible to bring in foreign spectators,” the Mainichi newspaper said, citing an unnamed government official.
Hashimoto was asked after the meeting how Japan could even consider letting in thousands of overseas fans, given how unpopular the idea is at home where up to 80 per cent want the Olympics, set to open on July 23, cancelled or postponed again.
Mr Bach hinted at hard choices to be made in comments before the meeting was closed to reporters.
“We will focus on the essentials,” Mr Bach said. “That means mainly the competitions. This has to be the clear focus.”
The exclusion of foreign fans has seemed almost a foregone conclusion with the games being held during a pandemic.
The Japanese public has been openly opposed to the games, and one sticking point has been the risk presented by visitors entering the country. The other has been the soaring costs.
Mr Bach said he was encouraged at the number of national Olympic committees that were getting athletes vaccinated. The IOC said it encourages vaccinations but will not require them.
Mr Bach said his hope was “to have as many participants as possible arriving vaccinated to Tokyo.”
The general plan is to isolate athletes in the Olympic Village alongside Tokyo Bay; put them in a bubble when they arrive, and until they leave Japan.
Me Hashimoto said a decision on venue capacity will be made by the end of April. She said the “zero-fans option” was not discussed.
Having fewer fans will be costly. The organising committee has budgeted income of $800 million from ticket sales. That shortfall will have to be made up by Japanese government entities.