When the Olympic Games begin in less than a month, the grandstands in the host city of Tokyo don’t have to remain empty. With their decision at the beginning of the week, the Olympic organizers are against the advice of health experts. But why do you do that in a pandemic?
“The Covid-19 prevention guidelines apply to all ticket holders. We have them so that everyone can feel comfortable in the venues. And those who cannot adhere to them will have to leave the plant. ”Hidenori Suzuki’s words sound rigorous. The person responsible for ticketing at the Tokyo Games explained on Wednesday what the stadiums will look like: Up to 10,000 spectators – or a maximum occupancy of 50 percent per venue – are allowed at the Olympics this summer. But under strict conditions.
Mask on – and please clap instead of shouting
“When you enter the stadium, wear a mask, don’t speak to each other, and please come early to avoid the crowd,” says Suzuki. “Please keep your mask on in the stadium. Cover your mouth, wash your hands, do not speak loudly, do not shout, do not whistle. If you want to cheer on the athletes, please clap. If you go to a kiosk or toilet on the complex, please avoid the queues. After the event, please leave the facility in stages. And please go straight home or back to your hotel. “
It is therefore certain that the Tokyo games will be characterized by a strange stadium atmosphere. After viewers from abroad were excluded months ago, it was unclear until the beginning of this week whether the stands would have to remain completely empty. Various health experts had recommended it. Shigeru Omi, chairman of the anti-corona task force of the Japanese government, had described the plan for the Olympic Games in the midst of a pandemic as “abnormal”. But if they had to take place, so Omi, then without a spectator.
Despite warnings: fans are allowed
His words were not heard by the organizers. And that is surprising. Because since the beginning of the pandemic, the organizers have always emphasized that safety has top priority. How does that fit together?
It’s about money, Katsuhiro Miyamoto calculates. The economics professor from Kansai University in Osaka sums up:
“For the various scenarios, I calculated how high the economic losses for the Olympic Games would be compared to their originally planned form: with tourists, visitors from abroad and full stadiums. A staging completely without spectators would lead to a loss of income of 2.4 trillion yen. But if at least domestic viewers are allowed to enter the stadiums, then only 1.6 trillion yen are missing out on sales. “
According to this calculation, the losses would be reduced by around 800 billion yen – the equivalent of six billion euros – if viewers could be there. That is put into perspective if the stadiums are only filled up to 50 percent – but there is still a lot of money involved. And the interests of those who earn money from it are well represented among the decision-makers.
Compromise: At least domestic tourism is flourishing
Kenichi Mishima observes this. The philosopher and government critic, who himself publicly called for the Olympic Games to be canceled in the spring, is thinking above all of the general secretary of the conservative ruling party – Toshihiro Nikai: “82 years old, very old fox. Someone who actually pulls all the strings behind the stage. And he said twice: If things get very critical, we have to think about giving up everything. To give up the whole project. That is quite a sensation for the Japanese Olympic Committee. But of course there is a personal ulterior motive with him. He is the president of the Japanese tourism industry. But after it was decided at the end of March that no foreign tourists could come, no hotel for foreigners, this Olympic summer means nothing for his association.
The compromise is now apparently this: Due to the spectators at the Olympic venues, who come from all over Japan, at least domestic tourism is flourishing a little this summer. The political connections obviously trump health policy expertise. At least as long as the filled stages do not lead to another explosion in the number of infections.
The majority of the public fears the risk of contagion
According to surveys, a large majority of the Japanese public is afraid of this. The organizers know that too. And they seem to shift the responsibility for a safe operation in the stadiums onto the visitors. On Wednesday, the Tokyo ticketing boss Hidenori Suzuki said: “We have already canceled the public viewing events. And we asked companies to keep their employees working from home so that there is not so much passenger traffic. We have now also banned the sale of alcoholic beverages in the stadiums. Of course, Tokyo 2020 is getting a lot of attention right now. And I would ask you, the ticket holders, to understand that you are part of these games. Please be aware of this. Please ensure that the residents do not have to worry. “
It sounds like the beginning of a defense strategy that goes like this: if infections should occur in stadiums, it was the audience’s own fault.