Kawasaki City Institute for Public Health Director General Nobuhiko Okabe speaks during a press conference after a roundtable on COVID-19 countermeasures at Tokyo 2020 Games in Tokyo, Friday, June 11, 2021. A group of experts participated in a third roundtable on COVID-19 countermeasures proposed for audience-related infection control. (Franck Robichon/Pool Photo via AP)

Tokyo Olympics still undecided on fans — or no fans at all

Fans from abroad already banned from what is shaping up to be a largely made-for-television event

The question of allowing any fans into Tokyo Olympic venues is still being debated with a decision unlikely to be announced before the end of the month.

This would be just a few weeks before the Olympics are to open on July 23. Fans from abroad have already been banned in what is shaping up as a largely made-for-television Olympics.

Tokyo and several prefectures are under a state of emergency until June 20. Infections have slowed recently, but the spread of variants is still a concern that could put pressure on already stressed medical facilities.

Dr. Nobuhiko Okabe, director general of the Kawasaki City Institute for Public Health, suggested on Friday he would lean toward few fans. He spoke on a panel put together by the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee.

“Thinking in a different way, I think it’s an option to suggest to people to enjoy the games on TV — like teleworking,” he said. “We could suggest a different way of enjoying the games.”

Okabe said it was not just a matter of fans in the venues, but what they do after leaving — heading to bars or restaurants.

“We don’t want people to move much,” he said. “That’s our wish as we think about anti-virus measures.”

Organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto originally said she would announce a decision in April about local fans but has repeatedly postponed it.

Ticket sales were to account for $800 million in income for the organizing committee. Much of that will be lost and has to be made up by Japanese government entities.

Japan is officially spending $15.4 billion to run the Olympics, though government audits suggest the figure is much higher. All but $6.7 billion is public money.

The Switzerland-based International Olympic Committee derives almost 75% of its income from selling broadcast rights, which drives the games and the urgency to hold it during a pandemic.

Japan’s JiJi Press reported Friday, without citing sources, that Dr. Shigeru Omi would issue a report next week that warns about the risks of having fans. He is a former World Health Organization regional director and a head of a government task force on the virus.

Speaking in a parliamentary session last week, he said “it is crucial that we must not let the Olympics trigger a flow of people.”

Hashimoto warned there could be penalties for anyone who breaks strict rules around the Tokyo Games. She did not say what they would be and said this was still under discussion.

The protocol for anyone entering Japan for the Olympics requires frequent testing, limited movement, and monitoring by GPS on smartphones.

This includes everyone from athletes to journalists to staff and other officials working the games.

About 11,000 athletes will attend the Olympics with 4,400 for the Paralympics. Tens of thousands of others will also enter Japan for both events. Organizers say the total figure for both events — athletes included — is about 93,000.

Organizers say that’s about half of the original total expected of 180,000.

“In order to get the citizens of Japan to feel secure there are rigid rules that we need to lay out or else,” Hashimoto said. “We’d like to avoid having to penalize people but we do need to take thorough measures.”

—Stephen Wade, The Associated Press

RELATED: Physician warns Tokyo Olympics could spread variants

Olympics

Just Posted

Dancers from the Sts’ailes First Nation perform the eagle dance at a welcome banner dedication ceremony on Thursday, June 10. “Ey Swayel” is a Halq̓eméylem term translated as ‘a good day.’ (Adam Louis/Observer)
VIDEO: ‘A good day’ for Agassiz school as Sts’ailes welcome banner is dedicated

Banner hangs above the school’s entrance, welcoming students, staff and visitors

UFV athletes were honoured for their strength and perseverance during the pandemic. (UFV photo)
Fraser Valley athletes recognized in year without sports

UFV Cascades athletes honoured for strength shown during the pandemic

Missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs was found deceased on Thursday evening (June 17).
Body of missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs found

Hobbs was reported missing Monday after leaving his job site in Langley

A tenant walks in front of her home on Boundary Road on Friday, June 18, 2021 after it was destroyed by fire the night before in Chilliwack. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack family homeless after fire rips through house on Abbotsford border

Turtle rescued, no one seriously hurt following Boundary Road fire in Chilliwack

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

A search is underway for a 75-year-old fisherman who went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search continues for angler missing between Port Angeles and Victoria

Canadian, U.S. Coast Guard searching for 75-year-old man reported missing Thursday evening

Most Read