Monday deadline for final decision on holding Olympics behind closed doors

The Olympic Rings installed on a floating platform with the Rainbow Bridge in the background in preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
The Olympic Rings installed on a floating platform with the Rainbow Bridge in the background in preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

By James Toney

The final decision on whether to stage the Olympics behind closed doors will be taken next Monday.

Earlier this month Tokyo 2020 organisers announced that 10,000 fans - not exceeding 50 percent of venue capacity - would be allowed to attend events.

But Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga's chief pandemic advisor continues to insist the Games should be held without spectators and the planned release of the lottery held to decide ticket holders has now been delayed.

It is expected a final decision will taken before next week's arrival in Tokyo of International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach.

"I've said before there is a possibility of there being no spectators," said Suga. "In any case, we will act with the safety and security of the Japanese people as our top priority."

Suga - who faces a tough reelection battle later this year - is under increasing political pressure over his handling of the pandemic, particularly Japan's initially sluggish vaccine roll-out programme.

Tokyo's metropolitan government today reported 673 new daily coronavirus cases, following 714 on Wednesday.

Tokyo's seven-day rolling average of infections now exceeds 500, hitting 'stage four', the worst level on the government's four-point scale, prompting speculation Suga may reintroduce state of emergency measures.

And Natsuo Yamaguchi, the leader of Suga's junior coalition partner, only increased that pressure today.

"We are seeing a rebound in infections," he said. "My hope is the government is still open to the possibility of there being no spectators at the Olympics."

Meanwhile, journalists covering the Tokyo Games have been warned to follow the rules or they could find themselves ‘exposed’ on social media.

Last month media were told they could only stay in approved hotels and will only be allowed to travel to Games venues on official transport, with runs or walks banned for the first 14 days.

With the exception of visits to pre-approved ‘convenience stores’, media will not be allowed to eat in restaurants for the first two weeks of their stay – using official venue catering or delivery apps.

Security guards will patrol hotels with media required to fill in a ‘Going Out Record’ when they leave. In addition, a condition of entry will include the installation of a tracking app on mobile phones.

“If you are identified walking outside, the security guards will ask you to stay in your room, and you must follow their instruction,” read a Tokyo 2020 media advisory.

“The people of Japan will be paying close attention to your every move as you participate in the Games.

“In the unlikely event that you are suspected or found to be infringement of the rules [the Playbook], such activity may be photographed and shared on social media by bystanders.”