• Olympics & Paralympics

Some Tokyo Games events likely to be held without spectators

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Spectator seats remain empty at the FINA Diving World Cup 2021, which served as a test event for the Olympics, in May at the Tokyo Aquatics Center in Koto Ward, Tokyo, while the third state of emergency was in place for the capital.

The government and the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games have begun making arrangements for some Games events, such as ones scheduled at large sites or at night, to be held without spectators, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

The move came after the resurgence of novel coronavirus infections in the capital and other areas, which prompted experts and others to call for stronger measures. The results of a redrawing for tickets, based on the assumption that the maximum number of spectators would be 10,000, were to be announced on Tuesday, but that may be postponed, sources said.

“I have made it clear that there might be no spectators [in the event of another state of emergency],” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said at the Prime Minister’s Office on Thursday. “The decision will be made at the five-party talks [which include the government and the organizing committee].”

Prior to Suga’s comment, Natsuo Yamaguchi, leader of Komeito, the ruling coalition partner of the Liberal Democratic Party, said to reporters in Tokyo, “I hope the government will take action considering an option to have no spectators.”

Emergency-level priority measures are in place for 10 prefectures including Tokyo, with the maximum number of spectators limited to 50% of capacity or 5,000, whichever is lower. If the priority measures end on July 11 as currently scheduled, the restriction on the number of spectators will be eased to 10,000.

The organizing committee and others decided on June 21 that the Olympic events will be held with 10,000 or fewer spectators.

However, the number of new infections is surging in Tokyo, and there is a growing view within the government that it will be difficult to end the priority measures as scheduled in the Tokyo metropolitan area. If the situation does not improve even after the priority measures are extended, it could force the government to declare a state of emergency during the Olympics.

To curb the number of people going out, the relevant bodies are leaning toward allowing no spectators at events held at large venues or scheduled at night, according to the sources.

The government will decide on whether to end the priority measures as early as Wednesday.

The organizing committee planned to redraw the tickets that have already been sold for the opening and closing ceremonies and seven competition events such as soccer, baseball and softball, on the assumption that up to 10,000 spectators would be allowed. The drawing results were planned to be announced on Tuesday, but that will likely be postponed until after the government makes a decision on the priority measures.