TOKYO 2020

Tokyo Olympics 2021: will there be fans in the stadiums?

Controversy about the Tokyo Olympics rumbles along with many Japanese medics publicly for the delayed Games to be cancelled.

Tokyo Olympics 2021: will there be fans in the stadiums?
DPA vía Europa Press DPA vía Europa Press

The Tokyo Medical Practitioners Association representing about 6,000 primary care doctors said hospitals in the Games host city "have their hands full and have almost no spare capacity" amid a surge in infections.

"We strongly request that the authorities convince the IOC (International Olympic Committee) that holding the Olympics is difficult and obtain its decision to cancel the Games," the association said in a May 14 open letter to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga which was posted to its website on Monday.

Japanese Prime Minister Suga holds a news conference, in TokyoJapanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga speaks during a news conference on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) emergency measures, at the Prime Minister's official residence in Tokyo, Japan May 14, 2021. Yuichi Yamazaki/Pool via REUTERS

A jump in infections has stoked alarm amid a shortage of medical staff and hospital beds in some areas of the Japanese capital, promoting the government to extend a third state of emergency in Tokyo and several other prefectures until May 31.

Overall, Japan has avoided an explosive spread of the virus experienced by other nations, but the government has come under sharp criticism for its sluggish vaccination roll-out.

Only about 3.5% of its population of about 126 million has been vaccinated, according to a Reuters tracker.

Underscoring the challenges with the vaccinations, booking systems for mass inoculation sites being launched in Tokyo and Osaka - which started accepting bookings on Monday - were marred by technical glitches.

But Suga says Japan can host "a safe and secure Olympics" while following appropriate covid-19 containment measures.

Preparations for the July 23-Aug. 8 Games are progressing under tight covid protocols, such as an athletics test event featuring 420 athletes in early May.

The Games have already been postponed once due to the pandemic.

With cases surging across much of Asia, the World Economic Forum on Monday cancelled its annual meeting of the global elite due to be held in Singapore in August.

Under the state of emergency in parts of Japan, bars, restaurants, karaoke parlours and other places serving alcohol will remain closed, although large commercial facilities can re-open under shorter hours. Hard-hit Tokyo and Osaka will continue to keep these larger facilities closed.

The number of cases nationwide dropped to 3,680 on Monday, the lowest level since April 26, according to public broadcaster NHK, but the number of heavy infections hit a record high of 1,235, the health ministry said on Tuesday.

Fans in Tokyo?

A decision was taken by the Japanese authorities in March 2021 that no international fans will be permitted at the delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics this summer because of concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, despite more than one million event tickets having being sold to non-Japanese spectators.

Anti-Olympics protest in TokyoAn anti-Olympics group member holds a banner during a protest outside the Japanese Olympic Committee headquarters, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tokyo, Japan May 18, 2021. REUTERS/Issei Kato

At present a definitive decision has yet to be taken on the presence of Japanese-based fans watching on from the grandstand.

Speaking at recent IOC event, former athlete and mow member of the Olympic Committee Sebastian Coe stated: "Everybody wants stadiums full of noisy, passionate people - but if the Games have to take place without crowds, or certainly with fewer people in stadiums, the athletes, the world of sport, accepts that now."