— Published 25 February 2021

For the public at the Tokyo Games, decision at the end of April

Patience. The IOC brought it up on Wednesday February 24th through its director of the Olympic Games, Christophe Dubi: the decision to authorise, or not, the presence of spectators at the Tokyo Games will not be taken before April. We will probably even have to wait until the end of this month, more or less 100 days before the opening.

A few weeks earlier, the Japanese organisers had indulged in suggesting an earlier decision-making. Before his resignation as president, Yoshiro Mori had suggested that the issue could be decided in March, before the start of spring.

But faced with the uncertainty of the course of the pandemic, the IOC seems to want to give itself some time. As much time as possible. Christophe Dubi explained in an online press briefing that the decision should be made “as late as possible, but as early as necessary“.

The IOC Games Director said, “Towards the end of April would be a good time”. In the process, Christophe Dubi suggested that the decision regarding audience attendance may not be the same for Japanese residents and spectators from abroad.

The IOC and the Organising Committee have not ruled out the scenario of Olympic events with only the Japanese and foreigners residing in the archipelago as spectators. Relevant in terms of health, but questionable at the sporting level. They also did not rule out deciding for the Japanese first, and then waiting before dealing with the foreigners.

For spectators coming from abroad, we have a whole set of constraints, while for local spectators, the logic is different”, explained Christophe Dubi. “We may have to make a two-step decision”.

Other news from Tokyo: The torch relay will be launched as planned on March 25th, with a starting line drawn at J-Village in the Fukushima prefecture, but spectators will not be free to move around.

Japanese organisers have unveiled their COVID plan for the torch route. They plan to allow the public, but with a compulsory mask, without being able to encourage the relayers vocally, and by reserving the side of the road to the inhabitants of the city or the district.

The presence of spectators at certain points of the course will be made only by reservation. And details of the torchbearers will only be released at the last moment, to avoid a crowd phenomenon along a stretch involving a celebrity.

The Japanese organisers specify it in their directives, unveiled this Thursday, February 25th: the course of the flame may be temporarily suspended if the crowd turns out to be too dense in certain areas of the course. They recommend that the Japanese instead follow the progress of the flame on the Internet, the relay to be broadcasted in its entirety live and through streaming.

The torchbearers may run without a mask, but are subject to maintaining social distancing between them. They must keep an accurate medical file up to date during the two weeks preceding their participation, and are asked to avoid risky activities, in particular going out to restaurants and in busy places.

Finally, still in the news from Japan, the surprising statement of Taro Kono, the minister in charge of the vaccination program against COVID-19. Asked about the process and timing of the campaign, he replied that the Tokyo Games were “not at all” part of the planning put in place by his ministry.