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March 4, 2021

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Japan to decide on overseas spectators

Japan’s government will decide whether to let overseas spectators attend the Summer Olympics in Tokyo by the end of March, Olympics Minister Tamayo Marukawa said yesterday.

Her comments were echoed by the head of the Games organizing committee, Seiko Hashimoto, who said she would like to reach the decision by March 25.

Most Japanese oppose holding the Games during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Mainichi newspaper earlier reported that the government was planning to ban overseas spectators due to worries they would spread the coronavirus, citing multiple unnamed sources.

“On the matter of overseas spectators ... I personally want to have it decided by the 25th of this month, when the Olympic torch relay will kick off,” Hashimoto told reporters after a virtual meeting with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and others.

“It is true that the situation is tough both in and outside Japan ... It would not be good if their entry stirred worry among the Japanese people.”

A Yomiuri newspaper poll showed yesterday that, if the Games are to go ahead as scheduled, 91 percent of people in Japan want spectators kept to a minimum or not allowed at all.

The poll — conducted between January 18 and February 25 — showed 70 percent of respondents said they were “interested in the Olympics,” but 58 percent said they did not want them to be held this year because of fears over COVID-19.

The 58 percent in opposition was, however, about 20 percentage points lower than earlier opinion polls.

The Tokyo Olympic Games were postponed last year because of the pandemic and rescheduled for July 23 this year.

A survey by global consultancy Kekst CNC published yesterday showed similar rates of majority opposition to the Games going ahead in Japan, at 56 percent, as well as in Britain and Germany, at 55 percent and 52 percent, respectively.


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