TOKYO – Japan’s minister in charge of coronavirus measures has proposed to limit spectators to 10,000 at major events, media reported on Wednesday -June 16, ahead of a decision scheduled for this month on domestic spectators for the summer Olympics.
Large venues in the capital, Tokyo, are now allowed only up to 5,000, or half their capacity as part of virus curbs that run until June 20, the prefecture’s government says.
The Olympics, delayed a year by the pandemic, are set to start on July 23.
Already, organisers have drafted strict guidelines for athletes, which could anyone violating the same to be kicked out of the Tokyo Olympics. Some of the guidelines will include daily testing and mask-wearing, organisers said on Tuesday as they unveiled updated guidelines just over five weeks before the opening ceremony.
The latest and final version of the rules for athletes runs 70 pages, complete with comic strips intended to explain the complex web of rules that organisers say will keep the Games safe.
Officials hope the restrictions will build confidence among Japan’s skeptical public that the Games can be held safely even though the pandemic has not yet been brought under control.
Olympic officials and Tokyo 2020 organisers emphasised new specific penalties for athletes if they violate rules – including warnings, fines or even “temporary or permanent ineligibility or exclusion from the Games”.
Officials did not clarify whether that sanction meant athletes could be barred from future Olympics as well as Tokyo.
“We expect you to play by the rules, but if you don’t there will be sanctions that could be coming your way,” said Pierre Ducrey, Olympic Games operations director for the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
With just weeks to go, Tokyo is under a virus state of emergency and no decision has yet been taken on whether any domestic spectators will even be allowed to attend, after overseas fans were banned earlier this year.
Organisers are trying to shift the narrative, emphasising the safety measures they are taking and that the majority of athletes and those in the Olympic village will be vaccinated and kept away from the Japanese public.
“The playbooks are there to be followed, no transgressions,” IOC Games director Christophe Dubi told reporters.
Organisers did not specify which sanctions would apply for which violations, and also said they could not detail the size of potential fines.
A disciplinary committee will be charged with weighing any violations and potential punishments.
As organisers count down to the opening ceremony on July 23, Olympic officials have begun arriving in Tokyo, including IOC vice-president John Coates who landed early Tuesday.
Ahead of his arrival, several dozen people protested against the Games in Tokyo, though recent opinion polls suggest public opposition may be weakening.
National polls in recent months found most people in Japan oppose holding the Games this summer, preferring either a postponement or cancellation.
But with the first foreign athletes already in the country and Olympic officials arriving, the mood may be shifting.