Tokyo 2020 chief admits Olympics could have 'limited' attendance
Next year’s rearranged Olympic and Paralympic Games could be staged with “a limited number of spectators” due to the coronavirus pandemic, Tokyo 2020 chief executive Toshiro Muto has said.
Covid-19 has already had a major impact on the games, causing their postponement for the first time, and could affect events in 2021.
At the recent International Olympic Committee session, president Thomas Bach said staging the Olympics without fans “is clearly something we do not want” and explained that the organisation is working on "multiple scenarios."
Bach has already ruled out the possibility of the Olympics being postponed by a further year and Muto (pictured) said the organisers “will do everything we can to make it to the opening ceremony” on 23 July, 2021.
Muto told BBC Sport: “Everyone should focus on holding the event next year – we are on the same page. We discussed this with Mr Bach and he is saying it is not appropriate to think about cancelling or postponing again."
Asked if the games could be held without spectators, Muto replied: “Mr Bach is not looking for that scenario. He may be thinking about a limited number of spectators with full consideration of social distancing.”
Tokyo 2020 has been rescheduled to take place from 23 July to 8 August, and will be followed by the Paralympics on 24 August to 5 September.
In recent weeks, both medical experts and Japanese locals have expressed concerns that the games could pose a grave health risk to people in the country, with a fear that vaccines will not be widely available.
Several surveys conducted in Japan have found that many locals are in favour of the games being cancelled or postponed again.
Bach has already insisted that a cancellation will only be an option if the virus cannot be brought under control, while Muto has said the fate of the Olympics is not dependent on a vaccine albeit other restrictions could be a huge factor.
Muto added: “If a vaccine is ready, that will be a benefit, but we are not saying we cannot hold the event without it – it is not a precondition.
“We must build an environment where people feel safe. Athletes and the IOC family may require testing before and after entering Japan and [we need] strong medical systems around accommodation and transportation plans.
“More than 130 countries are restricted from entering the country. We do not know what will happen, but it is too optimistic to assume all restrictions will be gone so we must think of other ways.”
Muto outlined the options being considered by the organising committee included reducing the number of staff and delegations from individual countries and “simplifying” the opening and closing ceremonies, although there are no plans to cut the number of events or athletes.
Organisers have already said they will look to “simplify” the games as a whole next year in a bid to lower costs and reduce risks related to Covid-19.
Last week, Muto called on the support of sponsors to help to offset the cost of the delay of the games.
He said the exact cost would not be known until December but bringing in new sponsors as well as increased contributions from current partners could help bridge the financial gap.
John Coates, the head of the International Olympic Committee’s coordination commission for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, this week expressed confidence that the rearranged showpiece will take place next year.
Muto said: “If we are able to succeed, Tokyo 2020 will leave a legacy as the first major international event held after the pandemic. It will be a new chapter of the Olympics and will be remembered as the first Olympics held during the coronavirus crisis. That is our strong wish.”