Virus-Delayed Tokyo Olympics Looks to Allow Spectators

Japan and the International Olympic Committee are looking to have spectators attend next July’s Tokyo Games after putting together a raft of safety measures for the games, one of the biggest global events to be pushed back due to the coronavirus pandemic.

IOC President Thomas Bach said after a meeting in Tokyo on Monday with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga that the two sides were compiling a “huge toolbox” to counter the pandemic and the IOC would make great efforts to have participants and spectators vaccinated before arrival — if a vaccine was available by then.

“At the appropriate time, we will be able to take the right tools out of this toolbox and apply them in order to ensure a safe environment for all participants in the games,” Bach told reporters at the prime minister’s residence. “This makes us also very, very confident that we can have spectators in the Olympic stadia next year and that the spectators will enjoy a safe environment.”

The Tokyo games, set for July 23 to Aug. 8, 2021, will mark the first time an Olympics has been postponed since the modern games began in the 19th century. Prior to the decision to delay the event, Japan had expected about 600,000 foreign visitors and more than 11,000 athletes to attend.

The shift to 2021 has caused logistical headaches, but was far less painful than cancellation for the host, sponsors, broadcasters and others with billions of dollars invested in the games.

Sports around the world have grappled with whether to let fans into venues and how to keep athletes safe in the face of a virus that has led to more than 54 millionrecorded infections globally.

For more on the Tokyo Olympics
  • Tokyo Olympics Delayed a Year as Virus Wipes Out 2020 Plans
  • Why They’ll Still Be the 2020 Olympics, Just Not Then: QuickTake
  • Delayed Olympics Leaves Hotels Deserted and the Economy in Limbo

Suga said after the meeting that Japan and the IOC were determined to hold the Olympics next year and were considering plans on the assumption that spectators would be in attendance.

The visit is Bach’s first to Japan since the decision was made in March to delay the Tokyo Olympics. Bach is expected to discuss preparations for the games with officials and tour facilities during his visit this week.

Fresh concern over the feasibility of staging the games arose after Japan hit a new daily infection record last week, while the U.S. and Europe are also experiencing severe outbreaks.

Still, Suga told reporters he was “determined to hold the Tokyo Olympics next year as testament to the human race’s victory over the virus,” as well as to show the world how northeastern Japan has recovered from the 2011 earthquake.

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