This summer’s virus-delayed Olympics could be held behind closed doors, Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto admitted Friday.
Former Olympiad Hashimoto said the Games can only be a success if the organizers ‘fully protect’ athletes and people in Japan, and that she is hopeful that people will be ‘happy’ that the event went ahead.
Foreign spectators have already been banned from the Games, and this week a decision on domestic fans was postponed to June, with organizers hinting at another wave of infections in Japan.
The postponed Olympics can now take place without fans, Seiko Hashimoto admitted
Dina Asher-Smith and the hopeful Great British medalists get to compete in an empty stadium
Athletes, such as South Korean Olympic taekwondo team player Lee Dae-hoon (left), will be protected as much as possible, according to Hashimoto.
“There may be a situation where we cannot allow spectators,” Hashimoto admitted in an interview.
“The only way we can call the Games a success is if we fully protect the lives and health of athletes and the people of Japan.”
Most people in Japan are back for a further delay in the Games or an outright cancellation, and a recent increase in virus cases has sparked a state of emergency in Tokyo and other parts of the country.
With the medical system already under pressure, Olympic organizers have been criticized for volunteering for medical personnel for the Games.
Hashimoto said cutting spectators can ease the pressure on the medical system.
“If the event itself changes, I think it concerns spectators,” she said.
“That’s one area where we may be able to lessen the anxiety of people concerned about the medical system.”
Hashimoto faces calls from some corners to cancel the Olympics
The Games have never been canceled outside of wartime, and the organizers have made it clear that they see no possibility for further delay or cancellation.
In an effort to gain the public’s trust, they have released rule books that mandate daily testing for athletes and restrict their range of motion.
But no quarantine is required for athletes, and vaccines are not required.
Hashimoto said the rules would be further refined, and she felt “a great responsibility to show that the Games can be kept safe.”
“I want to show that clearly as we work towards the Games,” she said.
When the Games were postponed last year, officials said the postponed event would be held as proof that humanity had triumphed over the virus.
But while the pandemic is still raging, Hashimoto said the focus would be on hope and unity.
People like British swimmer Adam Peaty may have to perform behind closed doors
It will show that the world can come together no matter how difficult the times. I think this is a time when we can show that we are united, ”she said.
Japan has experienced a smaller virus outbreak than many countries, with just over 10,000 deaths despite avoiding the harsh lockdowns seen elsewhere.
But the recent spike in infections wreaked havoc on Olympic preparations, pushing changes to test events and qualifying tournaments and prompting several regions to cut the nationwide torch relay from public roads.
Hashimoto said the organizers accepted that the situation would continue to change and that they ran simulations to adjust as needed.
“The organizing committee is thinking about what needs to be done to make sure the event is not canceled,” she said.
The Olympic Games organizers have released a rulebook for athletes to allay fears about safety
Olympic officials have defended their determination to move forward with the Games despite the pandemic and public opposition, and Hashimoto said she wants “a lot of people to be happy that we held the Games.”
“My big goal is to prepare for the Games in a way that gives people that feeling.”
Hashimoto, 56, is a former athlete who competed in ice skating and as a sprint cyclist in seven consecutive winter and summer games.
She took over as president of Tokyo 2020 in February, after her predecessor was forced to step down over sexist remarks.
Formerly an Olympic minister and one of only two women in the cabinet, she has pushed for better gender equality in Tokyo 2020.