As of last week, the organizing committee for the Tokyo Summer Olympics was still deciding on whether or not to risk allowing foreign spectators into the metropolis and the Games venues, or to ban them and keep their own situation with the COVID-19 pandemic under some control. Despite appeals from some international athletics groups, it was ultimately decided and made official by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that only people in Japan will spectate at the Games. It was a solid blow to the hoped-for international character of the Olympics as promised back in the conclusion of Rio 2016. Still, Japan’s organizers want to throw international Olympics fans a bone.
According to Inquirer.net, in return for overseas fans no longer permitted to come to Japan for the one-year postponed 2020 Summer Olympics, Japanese spectators will be enjoined by organizers to cheer equally for “all the athletes of the world.” This was remarked on by Tokyo sports director Mikako Kotani, describing the harsh but necessary ban as a loss of harmony and diversity. “I want to make sure the athletes don’t feel that it’s only Japanese fans in the venues,” says Kotani, adding that the Japanese fans can be inspired to act like the whole world in cheering the Olympians universally.
Tokyo 2020/1 is the first modern Olympic Games that will have no spectators arriving from outside the host country. Even family members of participating athletes may well be barred from joining their athlete relatives, as explained by Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto. About the only exception to this stringent ruling is allowing under a thousand foreign volunteers, most of which possesses “expert and specialized knowledge” to ensure the smooth operations of the various Olympic events.
“Japanese people hold fair play and hospitality very dear, and we will root for all athletes equally,” promised director Kotani on behalf of the organizing committee and Japan. “It might look like everyone is Japanese, but we want to raise the awareness of Japanese fans so that it feels like Tokyo is the whole world.”
While initially, Japanese polls show the country’s citizens are apathetic or opposed to continuing the Olympics in the middle of the pandemic, support for the upcoming Games has revived, along with agreement on the decision to ultimately keep foreign spectators out. The Olympic torch relay is set to begin this week, with the Olympics proper no longer budging from its July 23 opening ceremony date. The now-banned overseas spectators who have purchased tickets for the various Tokyo Games venues will be given a full refund.
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