An Olympic Games without fans? Maybe.
The upcoming Tokyo Olympics could be held behind closed doors, Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto has told AFP on Friday, 30 April.
A former Olympian, Hashimoto said the Games could only be a success if organisers “completely protect” athletes and people in Japan, and that she is hopeful people will “be glad” the event went ahead.
Overseas spectators have already been barred from the Games, and this week a decision on domestic fans was delayed until June, with organisers citing a new wave of infections in Japan.
“There might be a situation where we can’t allow any spectators to attend,” Hashimoto said.
“The only way that we can call the Games a success is if we completely protect the lives and health of athletes and the people of Japan.”
Public opinion in Japan back either a further delay of the Games or an outright cancellation.
A recent surge in virus cases has also prompted a state of emergency in Tokyo and other parts of the country.
With the medical system already under pressure, Olympic organisers have been criticised for requesting volunteer medical staff for the Games.
Hashimoto said cutting spectators could ease pressure on the medical system.
“If the event itself does change, I think it will be with regard to spectators,” she said.
“That is one area where we might be able to reduce the anxiety of people who are worried about the medical system.”
The Games have never been cancelled outside of wartime and organisers have made it clear that they see no possibility of either further delay or a cancellation.
In a bid to win public confidence, they have released rulebooks mandating daily testing for athletes and limiting their movement.
But there will be no quarantine required for athletes, and vaccines will not be mandatory.
Hashimoto said the rules would continue to be refined, and she felt “a big responsibility to show the Games can be held safely”.
“I want to show that clearly as we work towards the Games,” she said.
But with the pandemic still raging, Hashimoto said the emphasis would be on hope and unity.
“It will show that the world can come together no matter how hard times are. I think this is a time when we can show that we are united,” she said.
Japan has experienced a smaller virus outbreak than many countries, with just over 10,000 deaths despite avoiding the harsh lockdowns seen elsewhere.
But the recent spike in infections has further upset the Olympic preparations, forcing changes to test events and qualifiers.
The nationwide torch relay has also been taken off off public roads in some regions.
Main Photo: REUTERS