Tokyo Olympics to Decide on Foreign Fans This Month, Per Committee President

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistMarch 3, 2021

A sign
Eugene Hoshiko/Associated Press

Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee President Seiko Hashimoto said Wednesday that she wants to reach a decision regarding whether foreign fans will be allowed to attend Olympic events in Tokyo by the end of the month.

According to Stephen Wade of the Associated Press, Hashimoto said she wants a decision to be finalized by March 25, when the torch relay will begin in Japan ahead of the 2021 Summer Olympics, which were postponed from 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Japanese newspaper Mainichi reported Wednesday that it had already been decided that foreign fans will not be permitted to attend Olympic events, citing sources "involved in the discussions."

Hashimoto made no such definitive remarks, but she did say with regard to foreign spectators: "If the situation is tough and it would make the [Japanese] consumers concerned, that is a situation we need to avoid from happening."

Per Wade, Hashimoto met with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach on Wednesday, and the spectator situation was likely among the talking points.

Mainichi quoted a Japanese government source as saying, "In the current situation it is impossible to bring in foreign spectators," while Wade wrote excluding foreign fans has been "almost a foregone conclusion."

It was also noted that up to 80 percent of Japanese citizens either want the Summer Games to be canceled or postponed for a second consecutive year.

According to CNN, Japan has had 434,903 COVID-19 cases, contributing to 8,068 deaths.

By comparison, the United States has had over 28.7 million cases and 517,000 deaths.

There is already risk involved with bringing athletes from across the globe into Japan, and that risk would increase by allowing fans from foreign countries to attend events.

With regard to the 11,000 Olympic athletes, 4,400 Paralympians and thousands of other personnel members scheduled to come to Japan for the Olympics, Bach said the goal is "to have as many participants as possible arriving vaccinated to Tokyo."

Even if foreign fans are not permitted to attend Olympic events, Hashimoto suggested a percentage of domestic fans will, as she noted a "zero-fans option" was not discussed Wednesday.

In January, Richard Lloyd Parry of The Times reported that Japanese government officials concluded that the Tokyo Olympics would have to be canceled, but talks are ongoing about holding the Olympics as safely as possible, which suggests no cancellation is imminent.

If the Tokyo Olympics do occur as scheduled, they will kick off July 23 and run through Aug. 8.