Tokyo Games delay decision until June on fans -- or no fans

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Seiko Hashimoto, president of Tokyo 2020, attends a media huddle following the IOC Executive Board Meeting at the Tokyo 2020 headquarters in Tokyo, Wednesday, April 21, 2021. (Philip Fong/ Pool Photo via AP)

TOKYO – Japanese residents with tickets to the Tokyo Olympics may not know until weeks before the games open if they'll be allowed to attend.

Fans from abroad have already been barred, and on Wednesday organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto said a decision on venue capacity — or if there will be any fans at all, or just empty venues — may not be made until June. She had previously promised that decision for this month.

“We are still studying the timing,” Hashimoto said at a news conference in Tokyo after she and CEO Toshiro Muto finished an online, closed-door briefing with the IOC executive board in Switzerland.

She confirmed that June “was an option. I guess we need a little more time to make a proper judgment."

Government minister Taro Kano, who is in charge of the vaccine rollout in Japan, hinted last week that empty venues seemed likely as COVID-19 surges across Japan.

Hashimoto's backpedaling is typical of the ever-changing planning as virus cases rise in Japan with Tokyo's postponed Olympics set to open in three months in the midst of a pandemic.

Hashimoto acknowledged the low public support in Japan for going ahead with the Olympics, particularly since less than 1% of the population has been vaccinated. Polls repeatedly show 70-80% are opposed to going ahead with the games.

“In local municipalities the situations are rather dire,” Hashimoto said. “And in this context, Japanese citizens and residents have worries and concerns. I know that. ... For the safety and security of the games, we must contain the spread of the virus as soon as possible.”