Organisers have said only a limited number of local fans will be allowed to attend the Tokyo Olympics due to commence late next month.
Japan’s Olympic Committee made the announcement on Monday as they tried to save some of the spirit of the 2020 Games, where even cheering has been banned.
The local organising committee set a limit of 50% capacity, up to a maximum of 10,000 fans, for each Olympic venue. They said if coronavirus cases rise again, the rules could be changed and fans could still be barred all together.
Spectators from abroad were banned several months ago, and now some home fans who have tickets will be forced to give them up.
The latest decision comes as opposition among Japanese to holding the Games in July remains high, although new infections in Tokyo have started to subside.
Nevertheless, Japanese health officials are concerned that in a country where the vast majority of people have yet to be vaccinated, crowds at the Olympics could drive cases up.
Last week, the country’s senior medical adviser, Dr. Shigeru Omi, recommended that fans should be completely excluded from the venues for safety reasons. Allowing fans presents a risk not just at the venues, but will also lead to more circulation on commuter trains, in restaurants and other public spaces, the official said.
The organisers have insisted they will hold the games as planned, if only because billions of dollars in broadcast rights and ticket sales are at stake.
The president of the Tokyo Olympics Organising Committee, Seiko Hashimoto, called Monday’s decision “the last piece for the Olympics” to go ahead on July 23.
The 2020 Olympics rank as the first to be postponed in the history of the Modern Games, dating from 1896, though previous ones were canceled during World War I and World War II.