— Published 13 November 2020

At the Tokyo Games, the public will have to be on mute

The good news is that overseas spectators will most certainly be allowed at the Tokyo Games next year. And they probably won’t have to go through a quarantine period when they arrive in Japan.

Toshiro Muto, the executive director of the organizing committee, announced it on Thursday (November 12th) after a summit meeting held in the Prime Minister’s own offices. Progress is important. Since the decision to postpone the Tokyo Games, this is the first time the Japanese have hinted that competitions could be held next year in the presence of foreign spectators.

But, the less encouraging announcement, their numbers will be limited. More inconvenient : they will have to wait until next spring before getting the green light to organise their trip to the Japanese capital.

By next spring, we will put in place measures for all spectators, including non-Japanese residents, Toshiro Muto said during a video conference press briefing. We’re going to have to make sure that foreign visitors have the opportunity to watch the show. Everything will obviously depend on how the health situation develops, but they may be exempted from a 14-day quarantine if they meet certain conditions.”

Which ones ? The Japanese want to give themselves time before answering the question. We will have to wait until the end of March 2021, at the earliest, before knowing the number of authorized foreign spectators, but also their stay and travel conditions. A headache for potential ticket buyers, forced to wait up to 3 or 4 months before the start of the Games to make a decision on their Olympic project. A nightmare, also, for the travel agencies authorized to market the places for the Olympics.

Toshiro Muto agrees : “The spectators’ anxiety over whether or not they can go to the Games is understandable. We are aware of this. But we must take all preventive measures to be able to accommodate the largest possible number of spectators.” The Japanese know that it will be very difficult for them to control the coming and going of all visitors once the Games open. No question, therefore, of letting anyone travel. The conditions for entry into the country are expected to be severe, even dissuasive.

The only certainty is that foreign visitors must prepare themselves for an Olympic experience in Tokyo next year that is unparalleled in history.

Of course, the use of public transport will certainly be allowed to them. Toshiro Muto confirmed it. But they might have to follow a very strict route to get to competition venues from metro stations or bus stops. No way to deviate from it. They will be required to wear a mask in all circumstances. “In Japan, almost everyone wears them pretty much everywhere”, said the executive director of the organizing committee. A call center will be set up to receive and register all possible cases of visitors showing symptoms of the coronavirus.

Once at the venues, spectators will not have finished the health and safety protocol. Their behavior will be monitored. Toshiro Muto explained : “We may ask them to refrain from yelling and speak in a loud voice. But we have not yet come to a conclusion on this issue.” The atmosphere in the stadiums and arenas will be felt. Health will take precedence. Normal.

The anti-COVID plan will not be limited to the sole perimeter of Tokyo and its surroundings. Japanese cities that have to host foreign delegations before the start of the competitions will also have to adopt a health protocol. Among the measures considered, strict control of the movement of athletes and the staff, and exclusive use of sports facilities. Contacts with local populations are expected to be limited or even non-existent.