Banning all fans still 'an option' at Olympics, committee said after Emperor's concerns

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The organizing committee for next month’s Olympics in Tokyo may be going back on its plan to allow a limited number of fans attend events.

Organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto said Friday that a “no-spectator Games” remains an option for the Olympics, just days after she had revealed a plan to let up to 10,000 local fans into venues.

“What I feel is that no spectating should remain an option for us as we look into things,” Hashimoto said Friday, via The Associated Press. “The situation is changing from time to time so that is why we need to remain flexible and prompt in responding to any change. A no-spectator games is one of our options.”

Organizers already announced that all international fans will be banned from the Olympics due to the pandemic. On Monday, though, they announced that a limited number of fans would be able to attend events.

Venues will be limited to either 10,000 local fans or 50% of the venue’s capacity, whichever is fewer. Under that plan, fans will be forced to wear masks at all times and “speaking in a loud voice or shouting” is prohibited.

Whether the organizing committee sticks to that plan or opts to keep fans out entirely is now, apparently, to be determined.

Announcement comes after Japan’s emperor voiced concerns

Hashimoto’s statement on Friday came just one day after the Japanese emperor voiced his concerns about holding the games at all amid the ongoing pandemic.

Emperor Naruhito is reportedly “extremely worried” about the pandemic and the risk of increased infections stemming from the games. The emperor, who holds no political power and is largely a symbolic figure, will serve as the “honorary patron” of the Games.

Hashimoto was asked three times about Emperor Naruhito’s comments, per The Associated Press, but kept giving “vague replies.”

“We need to remove anxiety and concerns from all the Japanese people,” she said, via The Associated Press. “We need to really ensure a safe and secure operation of the games. So we will need to put in more effort in doing that.”

Japan has had more than 790,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus since the pandemic began, according to The New York Times, and more than 14,500 deaths attributed to it. The country recently eased its latest state of emergency, though officials have since noticed an increase of infections in the Tokyo area.

Only about 9% of the country is fully vaccinated.

The Tokyo Olympics, which were already postponed a year due to the pandemic, will kick off on July 23.

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