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  HOME | Sports (Click here for more)

Japan Trials Near-Full Stadiums for Olympics

TOKYO – Stadiums in Japan have more and more public in their stands owing to the gradual easing of entry restrictions and COVID-19 measures in what is a large-scale experiment in the run up to the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2021, whose inauguration is exactly nine months away.

In the national soccer and baseball leagues, the two most popular sports in the country, games are currently being played in front of tens of thousands of spectators, something that seemed a long way off when closed-door competitions resumed in July.

The Japanese authorities currently allow stadiums to hold up to 50 percent capacity, but they have decided to raise this to almost 100 percent for certain games in order to test the current system and to analyze if an increase in spectators entails more risk of infection.

During three baseball games that will be held at the Yokohama Stadium between Oct. 30 and Nov. 1, around 80 percent of the total capacity of 34,000 people will be allowed, as agreed upon by the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) and the government panel in charge of measures to combat the pandemic.

Along with the prevention measures that are already in place, the Yokohama DeNA BayStars stadium will use high-definition cameras and a supercomputer to analyze spectators’ movements and possible patterns that carry an increased risk of infections.

It is an “experiment” to determine whether it is safe to continue relaxing limits and allow stadiums to fill up again, according to Economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who is in charge of the government’s response to the coronavirus epidemic.

The data will be analyzed by the Japanese authorities in collaboration with several technology companies, and will study, for example, to what extent the risk of infection increases according to interpersonal separation of the spectators or during activities such as eating and drinking.

In the Yokohama Stadium, which will host the baseball and softball tournaments of the Tokyo Olympic Games, an entry of close to 16,000 spectators has been recorded since last month, when the Japanese authorities raised the ceiling on capacity.

In addition to these games, two other sporting events are planned in November with several thousand spectators in the stands.

These include the final of the Levain Cup soccer competition and an international gymnastics tournament, which will be held respectively at the Tokyo National Stadium and the Yoyogi National Gymnasium, two venues that will also host the Olympic Games.

The progressive increase in the number of spectators in the stands is accompanied by health security measures that have been implemented since the reopening of the stadiums.

These consist of the recording of body temperature and personal data of the attendees as well as a strict code of conduct

The public is required to wear a mask in the stands and maintain social distancing whenever possible, and is prohibited from singing or shouting to cheer on their teams due to the risk of spreading saliva particles.

Although it was also prohibited in initially, clapping is one of the few resources left for spectators to make themselves heard in this new normal for Japanese stadiums.

Since the stadium were reopened at the beginning of July, no COVID-19 infection linked to sporting events with spectators has been recorded in Japan, a country that has been registering around 500 infections daily over the last two months.

The organizers of Tokyo 2020 have said that they are following the evolution of the most popular national competitions as a reference for holding Olympic Games with spectators and, in particular, the health security measures implemented.

In order to host “safe and full” Olympic Games, both athletes and spectators will have to abide by strict rules, Olympics Minister Seiko Hashimoto said in an interview with Nikkei daily on Wednesday.

Based on the measures that are being tested in Japan and in other countries, the hosts plan to develop a security protocol for spectators at the Olympic Games in the coming months.

This is a complex issue due to the fact that this protocol is linked to the ban on the entry of foreign visitors imposed by Japan on account of the pandemic.

 

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