A final decision on domestic spectators will be made at a meeting to be held as early as Monday among Tokyo 2020 organisers, the International Olympic Committee, International Paralympic Committee, Japanese government and Tokyo Metropolitan government.
“I would like it to be held with spectators. I plan to head into the five-way meeting with that in mind,” the Sankei quoted Tokyo 2020 head Seiko Hashimoto as saying.
Hashimoto said at the start of an experts roundtable on Friday that Tokyo 2020 had received advice from Japan’s top medical adviser, Shigeru Omi, and that it would be discussed at that meeting. It would also inform discussions in way talks with the IOC and others.
Media said Omi advised holding the Games without any spectators was the least risky option. Spectators from abroad are already banned from the sporting extravaganza, which starts on July 23.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government decided on Thursday to ease emergency coronavirus curbs in nine prefectures including Tokyo, while keeping some “quasi-emergency” restrictions.
Health experts including Omi agreed earlier this week that the number of spectators at domestic events could be raised to 10,000, but only in areas where “quasi-emergency” measures, including limiting restaurant hours, have been lifted.
Tokyo is scheduled to be under the lesser restrictions until July 11 after the state of emergency expires for the capital on June 20.
Omi, a former World Health Organization official sometimes criticised for toeing the government line, has become increasing outspoken about the risks the event may spread the virus. Earlier this month, he told parliament it was “not normal” to hold the Games during a pandemic.
His comments have triggered criticism from some politicians, who charged he was exceeding his remit.
Japan’s public remains concerned about the risks. A survey by NHK public TV this month showed 32% favoured a cap on spectators, 29% wanted no spectators and 31% wanted the Games to be cancelled.
Suga’s handling of the Covid-19 outbreak has eroded his public support ahead of a general election that must be held by late October and a ruling party leadership race in September.
The same NHK survey put his disapproval rate at 45%, the highest since he took office last September, against a support rate of 37%.
Japanese media said earlier that Omi, who is set to give a news conference later on Friday, would also recommend that if spectators are allowed, restrictions should be tough, including limiting them to residents of the local area.
Omi would also likely say that if there are signs of a renewed surge, the government should not hesitate to declare another state of emergency and ban spectators, the Yomiuri newspaper said. But he will not address the question of whether the Games should be held at all, it added.
Japan has not experienced the explosive outbreaks seen elsewhere but a recent surge and initially slow vaccinations rollout prompted concerns about strains on the medical system.
The country has recorded more that 776,000 cases and over 14,200 deaths, while just 15% of its population has received at least one Covid-19 vaccination.