Despite multiple warnings from health experts, up to 10,000 spectators at each event venue will be allowed to attend at the upcoming Olympic Games in Japan, the president of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, Seiko Hashimoto, said on Monday.
The news comes after health experts said that such a move could prove to be a massive health risk because it could lead to a surge in COVID-19 cases in not just the country, but among the participating athletes as well.
"In principle, spectators will be admitted to events subject to the above limits", the organisers told local media on Monday. "In light of the government's restrictions on public events, the spectator limit for the Olympic Games will be set at 50% of venue capacity, up to a maximum of 10,000 people in all venues".
However, in case the coronavirus situation worsens any time before or during the games, spectators could be barred from attending events and the Olympics will then go ahead without spectators in attendance.
"If there should be a major dramatic change in infections, we may need to revisit this matter amongst ourselves, and we may need to consider the option of having no spectators in the venues", the governor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike, said.
On the other hand, Hashimoto said: "We want people there to appreciate Tokyo 2020. What is most important is for people in Japan to feel safe and secure, so we have to keep providing information to make them feel that way".
"We believe that we can hold the games with spectators", she added.
Several of the protocols that have been put in place for the spectators are - wearing masks, arriving at the venues directly from home, and as soon as the events are over return home.
However, according to Tokyo 2020’s chief executive, Toshiro Muto, spectators will not be asked to present proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test report.
Moreover, organisers will have to look into the matter of excess tickets. Before the postponement of the Olympics last year, the organising committee had sold nearly 4.5 million tickets in Japan.
But with a cap of a maximum of 10,000 spectators at each venue, a new lottery scheme will be needed to choose a new set of spectators from existing ticket holders.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and organisers have banned overseas fans from attending the Olympics.
A total of 11,500 athletes from more than 200 countries, including 80,000 officials, journalists, and support staff will feature at the Olympics alongside the Japanese spectators.
Despite the IOC, organisers, and Japanese government fully backing the games, the public in the country is largely against holding the quadrennial mega event during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A poll conducted by the Asahi News Network on 19-20 June found that 65% of respondents were in favour of postponing or cancelling the Olympics.
While the Japanese public is against holding the games, the Organising Committee's decision to allow spectators at venues has been received positively by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and the Tokyo-bound Indian Olympians.
IOA treasurer Anandeshwar Pandey told Sputnik on Tuesday, "This is definitely great news. The morale of the players, who will be participating in the Olympics will get a massive boost, because no player wants to perform in empty stadiums. With the crowd cheering, the players will now enjoy their performances even more".
"It is a right step in the right direction because the fans are the biggest assets and every sport needs fans for its survival. Also, we all have to overcome this coronavirus, and I don't think there's anything wrong in allowing spectators at venues because most of the athletes and the support staff will be vaccinated before their arrival in Tokyo. So, that way the players and their coaches will remain safe and secure from the virus".
Tokyo-bound Indian table tennis star Achanta Sharath Kamal was ecstatic after hearing the news that spectators will be allowed at the Olympic venues.
"It's really nice to play in front of the spectators rather than empty stadiums. Many times we are practicing in empty stadiums, so it is always better to have spectators", Kamal told Sputnik on Tuesday.
He added: "Whether they are cheering for you or not, but it is always better to play in front of spectators to have some kind of acknowledgement of the points or the games you have won or lost".
The Indian contingent, featuring a fully vaccinated 190-member team, including 100 athletes and officials, will participate in the Olympics. Upon their arrival in Tokyo, the athletes and the support staff will have to undergo a six-day quarantine, as mandated by the organisers.