Olympics Chief Arriving in Tokyo as Concerns Loom Over Games
(Bloomberg) -- International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach is set to arrive in Japan, where concerns linger over rising infections, a potential vaccine shortage and no firm decision yet on spectators before the opening ceremony in two weeks.
After a mandatory quarantine in a hotel for a few days starting Thursday, Bach and his entourage will be meeting officials and participating in pre-game events. Close to 100% will be vaccinated or immune, he said in a letter last month.
Although Japan has fared better than other rich nations in keeping infection numbers low, the government and Olympic organizers have struggled to reassure its population and the media that it can pull off a major sports spectacle during a pandemic. That led to a one-year delay to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and is fueling lingering concerns on the eve of Bach’s visit as the government considers whether to keep restrictive measures in place even during the games.
“The eyes of the world will be on us, scrutinizing our every action,” Bach said in the letter.
The city of Tokyo has shown a slight uptick in new Covid-19 cases, at about 600 daily infections over the past week. While 50.9 million vaccine doses are estimated to have been administered in the country, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News, there’s rising concerns from slowing inoculation rates and supply shortage of vaccines.
The government is set to decide Thursday whether to extend its quasi-state of emergency, which could last through the closing of the Games. It’s also considering tighter alcohol restrictions in Tokyo and its 3 surrounding prefectures as it struggles to contain Covid outbreaks in the capital area, the Nikkei newspaper reported Wednesday.
A final decision is also due on spectator attendance, with the government considering plans to make all venues unattended by fans, the Mainichi newspaper reported Wednesday. Shigeru Omi, the head of the coronavirus advisory panel, said on Wednesday it was desirable to hold the games without spectators, the Kyodo news agency said.
Public polls show 35% of respondents saying the Olympics should be held without spectators. Initial plans called for a cap of at each venue. Initial plans called for a cap of either 10,000 spectators or 50% of capacity, whichever is smaller, at each venue.
The IOC has been providing vaccines to the athletes, and expects more than 80% of them, to be vaccinated. Even so, confirmed positive cases from arriving competitors, such as from Uganda and Serbia, are adding to public concerns.
The 70,000-plus local volunteers are also being provided vaccines by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, although the bulk of the second doses will only be available from the end of July, a week after the start of the Olympics.
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