Tokyo Olympics will make a decision this month on allowing international fans at the games
By Motoko Rich and Andrew Keh
Organizers of the Tokyo Olympics will decide by the end of March if they will allow international spectators to attend the games this summer in Japan. The timetable was revealed at a news conference Wednesday by Seiko Hashimoto, the organizing committee president, who acknowledged the ongoing coronavirus pandemic meant a total ban on overseas fans remained a possibility.
“When we think of the current situation, whether it is Japan or overseas, we are under a very difficult situation,” Hashimoto said. “That is a fact. In the end, the decision about spectators will be whether we can maintain a safe and secure games.”
Officials in Japan are scrambling to find a safe way to host the Olympics, which were postponed for one year last summer because of the pandemic. Concerns about ballooning costs and the prospect of thousands of overseas travelers entering the country have soured much of the country on the effort. The project took another hit last month when Yoshiro Mori, the previous president of the Tokyo Olympics, was forced to step down after making sexist comments at a meeting. On Wednesday, the organizing committee — at a news conference where it was represented by an all-woman group of officials — announced that 12 additional members, all of them women, would join its executive board. Out of 45 board members, 19 are now women.
In an effort to alleviate concerns around safety, Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, reiterated on Wednesday that the IOC was urging all countries to find ways, within the rules of their national vaccination programs, to have their Olympic athletes vaccinated before the start of the games.
“I can inform you that a considerable number of national Olympic committees have already secured this pre-Tokyo vaccination, and a very considerable number of national Olympic committees are in good contact with their respective governments to allow for this vaccination for Tokyo after the first wave of the risk population has been vaccinated,” Bach said.
The propriety of moving athletes and coaches to the front of vaccination lines has split the Olympic movement. Some countries, including Israel, Mexico and India, have said they will do so, and a few already are vaccinating their athletes. Others, including the United States, Britain and Italy, have said their athletes will wait their turn.