Kawasaki City Institute for Public Health Director General Nobuhiko Okabe speaks during a press conference after a roundtable on COVID-19 countermeasures at Tokyo 2020 Games in Tokyo, Friday, June 11, 2021. A group of experts participated in a third roundtable on COVID-19 countermeasures proposed for audience-related infection control. (Franck Robichon/Pool Photo via AP)

Tokyo Olympics still undecided on fans — or no fans at all

Fans from abroad already banned from what is shaping up to be a largely made-for-television event

The question of allowing any fans into Tokyo Olympic venues is still being debated with a decision unlikely to be announced before the end of the month.

This would be just a few weeks before the Olympics are to open on July 23. Fans from abroad have already been banned in what is shaping up as a largely made-for-television Olympics.

Tokyo and several prefectures are under a state of emergency until June 20. Infections have slowed recently, but the spread of variants is still a concern that could put pressure on already stressed medical facilities.

Dr. Nobuhiko Okabe, director general of the Kawasaki City Institute for Public Health, suggested on Friday he would lean toward few fans. He spoke on a panel put together by the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee.

“Thinking in a different way, I think it’s an option to suggest to people to enjoy the games on TV — like teleworking,” he said. “We could suggest a different way of enjoying the games.”

Okabe said it was not just a matter of fans in the venues, but what they do after leaving — heading to bars or restaurants.

“We don’t want people to move much,” he said. “That’s our wish as we think about anti-virus measures.”

Organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto originally said she would announce a decision in April about local fans but has repeatedly postponed it.

Ticket sales were to account for $800 million in income for the organizing committee. Much of that will be lost and has to be made up by Japanese government entities.

Japan is officially spending $15.4 billion to run the Olympics, though government audits suggest the figure is much higher. All but $6.7 billion is public money.

The Switzerland-based International Olympic Committee derives almost 75% of its income from selling broadcast rights, which drives the games and the urgency to hold it during a pandemic.

Japan’s JiJi Press reported Friday, without citing sources, that Dr. Shigeru Omi would issue a report next week that warns about the risks of having fans. He is a former World Health Organization regional director and a head of a government task force on the virus.

Speaking in a parliamentary session last week, he said “it is crucial that we must not let the Olympics trigger a flow of people.”

Hashimoto warned there could be penalties for anyone who breaks strict rules around the Tokyo Games. She did not say what they would be and said this was still under discussion.

The protocol for anyone entering Japan for the Olympics requires frequent testing, limited movement, and monitoring by GPS on smartphones.

This includes everyone from athletes to journalists to staff and other officials working the games.

About 11,000 athletes will attend the Olympics with 4,400 for the Paralympics. Tens of thousands of others will also enter Japan for both events. Organizers say the total figure for both events — athletes included — is about 93,000.

Organizers say that’s about half of the original total expected of 180,000.

“In order to get the citizens of Japan to feel secure there are rigid rules that we need to lay out or else,” Hashimoto said. “We’d like to avoid having to penalize people but we do need to take thorough measures.”

—Stephen Wade, The Associated Press

RELATED: Physician warns Tokyo Olympics could spread variants

Olympics

Just Posted

Terry Mazzei next to a truck after it was struck by lightning, with him inside, on Wednesday afternoon, June 9. He walked away from the incident without injury and the truck sustained only mild damage; a blown front tire and newly broken gas gauge. (Wendy Mazzei photo)
Nanoose Bay man walks away unscathed after lightning strike

VIDEO: ‘We like to think that his dad was watching over him’

This young fledgling white raven was spotted in the Coombs area on May 16. (Mike Yip photo)
Expert says 2 sets of parents producing rare white ravens in mid-Island area

One of the iconic birds is currently recovering at wildlife centre after being rescued

Flowers planted along Highway 19 in downtown Parksville. (Submitted photo)
City of Parksville plants more than 15,000 annual bedding plants

Residents encouraged to take flower photos and post to social media

New COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island by local health area for the week of May 30-June 5. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control image)
COVID-19 cases drop again almost everywhere on Vancouver Island

Nanaimo had four new cases last week, down from 22 the week before

The Parksville Civic and Technology Centre. Offices will re-open to the general public on June 21. (PQB News file photo)
Parksville’s city hall offices to open again on June 21

Offices will resume pre-COVID hours of operation

t
How to tell if a call from ‘CRA’ is legitimate or a scam

Expert says it’s important to verify you really are dealing with the CRA before you give out any info

Nathan Watts, a member of the Tseshaht First Nation near Port Alberni, shares his story of substance use, a perspective he said isn’t seen enough. (Photo courtesy of Nathan Watts)
Public shaming, hate perpetuates further substance use: UVic researcher

Longtime addict Nathan Watts offers a user’s perspective on substance use

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Her death is considered a homicide and connected to the slain brothers found on a Naramata forest road. (Submitted)
Condolences pour in for Kathy Richardson, Naramata’s 3rd homicide victim in recent weeks

Richardson was well liked in the community, a volunteer firefighter with a home-based salon

A person receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
More than 75% of B.C. adults have 1st dose of COVID vaccine

The federal government has confirmed a boost in the Moderna vaccine will be coming later this month

Airport ground crew offload a plane carrying just under 300,000 doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine which is developed by the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
1st batch of Johnson & Johnson vaccines won’t be released in Canada over quality concerns

The vaccines were quarantined in April before they were distributed to provinces

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets campers while visiting McDougall, Ont. on Thursday, July 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
71% of B.C. men say they’d prefer to go camping with Trudeau: survey

Most British Columbians with plans to go camping outdoors say they’d prefer to go with Trudeau or Shania Twain

The courthouse in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file)
Nanaimo man, already in jail, found guilty of sexual abuse of sons

Man previously sentenced for sexual interference involving girl in Nanaimo

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

British Columbia-Yukon Community News Association’s 2021 Ma Murray Awards were handed out during a virtual ceremony on Friday, June 10. (Screen grab)
Black Press Media winners take gold at B.C. and Yukon journalism awards

Publications received nods in dozens of categories

Most Read