The number of athletes at the opening and closing ceremonies of the Tokyo Olympics scheduled for this summer should be reduced due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, organizers said on Monday, a Japanese newspaper citing several thousand fewer participants.
“In order to ensure the safety and security of athletes and to simplify operations during the Tokyo-2020 Games, we believe it is necessary to reconsider the number of participants in the opening and closing ceremonies,” the organizers wrote. in a statement sent to AFP.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) expects that number to almost halve for the opening ceremony scheduled for July 23, according to the daily Yomiuri Shimbun.
Around 6,000 athletes are expected to take part in the ceremony, the newspaper claims, while more than 11,000 athletes from around the world are expected to compete in Tokyo.
The organizers did not immediately give any figures, however, explaining that the details were still being discussed with the IOC.
According to Yomiuri Shimbun, health restrictions limiting the time spent in the Olympic Village would explain this drastic drop.
Because these restrictions mean that athletes will not be able to access the Olympic Village more than five days before the scheduled start of their respective competitions. They must also leave the premises two days after the end of their tests.
A sharp upsurge in infections in Japan and elsewhere in the world has revived doubts about the possibility of organizing the Tokyo Olympics this year, already postponed to 2020 because of the new coronavirus.
Despite a Japanese population overwhelmingly reluctant at present, the organizers and the Japanese government assure that the Games can take place safely this summer, even if the COVID-19 pandemic is not under control by then.
“The government has not changed its position on the Olympics and Paralympics,” government spokesman Katsunobu Kato said on Monday.
Last week, an influential Japanese minister, Taro Kono, however, felt that no possibility should be ruled out concerning the Olympics.
And this weekend, a former IOC vice-president, Kevan Gosper, even suggested that the United Nations be consulted on whether or not to host the event this year.