Tokyo, Japan: No alcohol, no hugs, no cheers, and no autographs: Tokyo Olympic organizers unveiled tough new rules for spectators at the pandemic Games on Wednesday, as they marked one month until the opening ceremony.
Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto warned festivities “will have to be suppressed” to keep the Games safe, and conceded that organisers will need to be “creative” to stoke a party atmosphere.
Games chiefs decided on Monday to allow up to 10,000 spectators into competition venues, but Hashimoto warned them not to expect the kind of festival mood currently being enjoyed by football fans at Euro 2020.
“In Europe, the venues are filled with celebration,” she said.
“Unfortunately, we may not be able to do the same.”
Spectators will need to clear several antivirus requirements, including temperature checks and mask-wearing, just to get into venues — with no refunds available for those who can’t.
Once inside, they are forbidden from cheering or “making direct contact with other spectators” and will be asked to go straight home after events end.
Asking athletes for autographs or “expressing verbal support” is also a no-no, as is waving a towel or “any form of cheering that could create a crowd”.
“The festive mood will have to be suppressed — that has become a major challenge,” Hashimoto told reporters.
“People can feel joy in their hearts, but they can’t be loud and they have to avoid crowds,” she added.
“Those are the areas where we need to be creative, and we are putting in a lot of effort to come up with a new way of celebrating.”
Spectators will also have to do without alcohol, even though it is allowed at other sporting events currently being held in Japan.
Hashimoto said the ban was decided “to alleviate the concerns of the public as much as possible.”
With the July 23 opening ceremony nearing, organisers are scrambling to finalise preparations and win over a sceptical public, pledging the Games will be safe for locals and participants.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday, former athlete Hashimoto said a stripped-back Games was a chance to refocus attention on the “true values” of the Olympics.
“In recent years when I was participating as an athlete, there were concerns that this (event) has become so huge,” she said.
“This time, I feel that the true values of the Olympic and Paralympic Games are finally being discussed.”
Hashimoto rejected the suggestion that the complications of Tokyo 2020 might put off future hosts, as Olympic officials face a dwindling number of cities eager for the expensive undertaking.
“I see this as one opportunity to present the essence of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and to change the format of the Games, so that other cities will be willing to hold the Games in the future,” she said.
It may not be a line that convinces everyone, with athletes facing tough restrictions including daily testing and a ban on travel except between venues and the Olympic Village.
Domestic opposition to the Games has softened in recent weeks, but around half of Japan’s public still don’t want the event to open in four weeks’ time, polls show.
On Saturday, a Ugandan Olympic coach tested positive on arrival in Japan, despite the team reportedly being vaccinated and testing negative before travel.
The rest of the delegation has now been put in quarantine until July 3.
The frantic pace of preparations may have taken its toll on Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, who has been admitted to hospital suffering from exhaustion.
Addressing fears of a fun-free Games, Hashimoto said hoped the Olympics would showcase Japan’s “culture of hospitality and caring about each other.”
“I hope such spirit of caring about each other, will become the legacy of the Games.”