Hashimoto prepared to hold Olympics with no spectators
（April 29, THE ASAHI SHIMBUN）
The Tokyo Olympic organizing committee is now prepared to hold the Summer Games with no fans in the stands, but some officials in the host city are increasingly calling for a cancellation of the event.
Seiko Hashimoto, president of the committee, said at an April 28 news conference that a no-spectator Olympics would be possible “if it was determined that having fans in the stands would lead to problems providing medical care” in the COVID-19 pandemic.
The news conference was held after she attended an online meeting involving Tamayo Marukawa, the state minister in charge of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, and Andrew Parsons, president of the International Paralympic Committee.
The five agreed to decide by June on how many fans to let in.
However, Hashimoto also said a decision might be possible by late May, given the need to prepare in either case.
A spectator-free Olympics would free up health care professionals to concentrate solely on treating Olympics athletes and officials if they become infected with the novel coronavirus.
However, one Olympic organizing committee source described the no-fans option as the “ace in the hole” for actually holding the Summer Games.
Although the five attending the April 28 meeting agreed that a cancellation of the Olympics should be avoided, Tokyo metropolitan government officials dealing with the novel coronavirus pandemic voiced opposition to even holding the sporting event.
They said that committing health care professionals to the Olympics would hinder efforts to provide normal medical services elsewhere in the country. Many local governments have said they are already short-staffed in caring for COVID-19 patients and administering vaccinations.
“Governor Koike should begin thinking of a ‘Plan B’ involving cancellation,” one metropolitan government official said.
A total ban on fans could cost the Olympic organizing committee around 90 billion yen ($829 million) in ticket revenues.
Under a contract with the IOC, any deficit incurred by the organizing committee would have to be covered by the central and Tokyo metropolitan governments.
But with public funds now set to pay for about 57 percent of the 1.644 trillion yen in total costs of holding the Olympics, any additional expenditure would likely draw criticism from Tokyo residents or the general population.
Opinion polls have already shown the majority of the population is against holding the Olympics this summer.
Another source with the Tokyo organizing committee said a decision on not allowing in any fans should only be made at the last possible moment, given the gravity of such a move.
The five officials at the online meeting had earlier agreed to make a decision on spectators by the end of April, but the COVID-19 pandemic pushed back an announcement.
In March, organizers decided to ban foreign spectators from attending the Games.
Several sources said that Olympic organizers had considered setting a 50-percent capacity limit on fan attendance by the end of April.
But the spread of mutant strains of the novel coronavirus and the third state of emergency issued for Tokyo led to a decision to hold off on the fan issue.