The Tokyo Olympics, already delayed by the pandemic, aren’t looking like much fun: Not for athletes. Not for fans. And not for the Japanese public.
They are caught between concerns about the coronavirus at a time when few are vaccinated on one side and politicians who hope to save lots of face by holding the Games and therefore the International Olympic Committee with billions of dollars on the road on the opposite.
Japan is legendary for running on consensus. But the choice to proceed with the Olympics and in the week to allow some fans, if only locals, has shredded it.
Support for going ahead seems to be increasing, but there’s persistent opposition with small street protests on Wednesday, one month before the July 23 opening.
Much of that concern stems from qualms about the health risks. While the amount of the latest cases has been receding in Tokyo, only about 7 percent of Japanese are fully vaccinated and albeit the govt is now supercharging its vaccine drive after a slow start, the overwhelming majority of the population still won’t be immunized when the Games start.
Before the postponement 15 months ago, Japan was on target to host a well-run if expensive Olympics. But now, worries that the Games are going to be become an incubator for the virus hang over them.
Compounding those worries, a second member of Team Uganda, an athlete, has tested positive after being given a clean bill of health just days ago upon arrival in Japan.
While the Games should find yourself wowing television audiences who will tune round the world, the pandemic has removed any sense of celebration. Athletes are meant to remain within the village or venues. Most others entering Japan for the Olympics can only shuttle between their hotels and venues for the primary 14 days, must sign a pledge to following the principles, and will have their movements monitored by GPS.
There will be no public viewing areas in Tokyo. The few fans who can attend venues must wear masks, social distance, refrain from cheering, and go straight home afterward.
In perhaps a last-ditch effort to save lots of a number of the festive spirit, organizers said on Tuesday they were looking into selling alcohol at the venues.
But after immediate pushback, organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto reversed the choice at a Wednesday press conference.
“We decided as Tokyo 2020 to not sell alcoholic beverages and to ban drinking alcoholic beverages within the venues,” she said.
And athletes who might need a drink to celebrate are told by organizers to “drink alone” in their rooms.
Alcohol is otherwise banned within the athletes’ village.
High-fives, talking loudly and autographs also will be banned for the reduced numbers of Olympic ticket holders allowed into venues as organizers conceded a “sense of celebration” are going to be limited at the Games.
Hashimoto warned festivities “will need to be suppressed” to stay the Games safe, and conceded that organizers will get to be “creative” to stoke a celebration atmosphere.
Games chiefs selected Monday to permit up to 10,000 spectators into competition venues, but Hashimoto warned them to not expect the type of festival mood currently being enjoyed by football fans at Euro 2020.
“In Europe, the venues are crammed with celebration,” she said. “Unfortunately, we might not be ready to do an equivalent .”
Fans are forbidden from cheering or “making direct contact with other spectators”. Asking athletes for autographs or “expressing verbal support” is additionally a no-no, as is waving a towel or any sort of cheering that would create a crowd”.
“The festive mood will need to be suppressed — that has become a serious challenge,” Hashimoto said. “People can feel joy in their hearts, but they can’t be loud and that they need to avoid crowds. Those are the areas where we’d like to be creative, and that we are fixing tons of effort to return up with a replacement way of celebrating.”
Japanese doctors have said banning spectators is that the least risky option but also given recommendations on how best to host the Games if spectators are admitted. Spectators from overseas have already been barred.
Organizers said on Wednesday they might choose whether to permit spectators in the dark sessions, taking infections under consideration, by July 12 when virus curbs are thanks to being lifted in Tokyo and a few other areas.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has still not ruled out holding the Games without spectators if Tokyo is replaced under a state of emergency, from which it only emerged on the summer solstice.
The positive test for the Ugandan athlete followed a positive test for a teacher upon arrival in Japan on Saturday, and after the remainder of the delegation were quarantined.
Their cases underscore the challenges ahead for organizers to form the Games safe, with daily testing of athletes, who are going to be confined to a “bubble” and kept far away from the general public.
The second positive test was announced by the team’s host city Izumisano in western Japan, confirming the remainder of Team Uganda and an area city official who accompanied them from the country were close contacts