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Japan May Limit Spectators at Olympics Opening Ceremony

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The number of spectators at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics will be reduced to a handful of VIP, or Very Important Persons dignitaries, and Olympic officials because of concerns over the rising number of new COVID-19 cases in the capital, according to a Japanese newspaper.

A report in Tuesday’s edition of the Asahi Shimbun newspaper says the idea is part of a larger plan that would also include banning visitors from attending events at large venues and at night.

Organizers of the Tokyo Olympics announced back on June 21 that it would allow just 10,000 people, or 50% of a venue’s capacity, at all events, despite health experts advising the government that banning all spectators was the “least risky” option for holding the Games.

The Asahi Shimbun reported the revised changes to the number of spectators allowed would be negotiated between the government and officials with the International Olympic Committee.

The government initially placed Tokyo and several other prefectures under a state of emergency in April because of a surge of new COVID-19 infections in the Japanese capital and across the country. The surge prompted staunch public opposition against staging the Olympics, especially among a prominent group of medical professionals that urged Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to call off the Games. 

The prefectures transitioned last month from the state of emergency into “quasi-emergency” measures that will expire on July 11, just 12 days before the Olympics opening ceremonies. However, we expect the government to extend the quasi-emergency after a meeting on Thursday, with a decision about the Olympics to follow.  

Prime Minister Suga has previously said he would not rule out banning all spectators from attending the Olympics if the situation takes a turn for the worse.

After a one-year postponement, the Tokyo Olympics will take place as the novel coronavirus pandemic began spreading across the globe. They have already banned foreign spectators from attending the event. 


This report includes information from the Agence France-Presse and Reuters.