Alcohol banned at Tokyo Olympics as 1-month countdown starts


mainichi– Tokyo marked one month until the start of the Olympics on Wednesday, with organizers banning the drinking of alcohol at games venues as they set out measures they hope will allow a safe event to be held amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The organizing committee of the Olympics and Paralympics released safety guidelines for ticket holders, including banning loud cheering, the giving of high-fives and towel waving, in addition to prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages in venues and explicitly stating spectators must not bring their own.

“Realizing a safe and secure games is what the organizing committee wants the most, and we are responsible for making that happen,” Seiko Hashimoto, president of the committee, said at a press conference. “If the Japanese people have even a slight sense of worry, then we must give up.”

Hashimoto said that Asahi Breweries, one of the games’ major sponsors, has accepted the decision.

The organizers had been considering allowing the sale of alcohol at venues by putting in place some restrictions in apparent consideration for the major Japanese brewery, officials familiar with the planning said earlier.

The idea, however, came under criticism from the public, medical experts and both ruling and opposition lawmakers.

Japan’s top government spokesman Katsunobu Kato backed the decision at his regular press conference, saying it is “very important” for the organizing committee to take into consideration public opinion.

Among others, the anti-coronavirus guidelines said people who have a body temperature of 37.5 C or higher, or those who are aware they are displaying symptoms like fever, will not be permitted entry.

Due to Japan’s summer heat, however, spectators are allowed to remove their face masks outdoors if they can ensure they have two meters or more of physical distance from others.

They are asked to keep their ticket stubs or ticket data for at least two weeks after entering a venue. If anyone tests positive for COVID-19, the guidelines say the date of the infected person’s attendance and their seat number will be listed on the Tokyo Games official website and posted on social media.

With the one-month countdown clock now ticking, the committee also launched an official smartphone app, which will make available event results and the medal table.

On Wednesday, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike did not make a public appearance as she has taken time off work due to severe fatigue. She was admitted to hospital in the capital on Tuesday, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

Athletes started to arrive in Japan this month to hold training camps, but the organizers of the Olympics and Paralympics continue to struggle to turn the tide of public sentiment in favor of staging the games amid the global health crisis.

The organizers have given the public and participants a better idea of what the Olympics will be like following an unprecedented postponement, having set significant limits on spectator attendance.

They finally decided on what to do with local fans on Monday, saying venues can be filled to 50 percent of capacity, up to a maximum of 10,000 spectators, and left open the possibility of hosting the games behind closed doors if the infection situation worsens.

The decision was made just after a COVID-19 state of emergency was lifted in Tokyo and some other parts of the country.

Still, medical experts warn of a possible resurgence of the virus before or after the Olympics begin July 23. A recent Kyodo News survey found that about 86 percent of people in Japan are concerned about the risk of a rebound in COVID-19 cases.

After barring overseas spectators in March, Hashimoto said the decision on limits for domestic spectators is the “final piece” of the most complicated part of preparations, before another lottery is held for ticket holders to determine those who will be able to attend.

Since the postponement of the Olympics and Paralympics last year, the organizers have faced a number of challenges from again securing venues, reviewing costs, formulating anti-virus measures and attempting to reassure the public that the games can be held safely.

The Japanese and Australian softball teams will raise the curtain on competition on July 21 in the northeastern prefecture of Fukushima before the official opening of the Olympics. The athletes village will formally open on July 13.

Featuring some 11,000 athletes from around the world, 33 sports will be staged during the games that close on Aug. 8. In order to prevent the spread of the virus, athletes will be kept in a “bubble” and will not be allowed to interact with locals or visit places outside of their venues or accommodation.

The International Olympic Committee has set the deadline for the qualification period to end next Tuesday and the athletes’ registration period on July 5.

The Tokyo leg of the torch relay is set to begin on July 9. While about 10,000 runners were initially set to carry the Olympic flame in the country’s 47 prefectures, the organizing committee has scaled down or taken the event off public roads in many areas, including Hokkaido, Osaka and Fukuoka.