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Tokyo Olympics should give up on overseas guests, publicize discussions: JOC exec

Kaori Yamaguchi is seen in this file photo taken in Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo, on Dec. 24, 2019. (Mainichi/Daiki Takikawa)

TOKYO -- Amid concerns over whether Tokyo should hold the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games during the coronavirus pandemic, Kaori Yamaguchi, an executive board member of the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC), said Feb. 22 that she thinks organizers should abandon the idea of having spectators attend the games from overseas.

    Speaking to the Mainichi Shimbun by telephone, Yamaguchi said, "The public has experienced a repeated rise and fall in infections. Even when the state of emergency is lifted, it won't be easy to dispel concerns of another infection spread."

    The government is expected to decide on the upper limit for spectators, and whether foreign guests will be accepted, by the spring. Athletes will be subject to certain conditions, including testing negative for the virus within 72 hours of their departure for Japan, and it's expected participants will be exempted from 14-day quarantine requirements upon entry to the country.

    The government is also reviewing whether to apply similar special measures to foreign tourists, on condition that they use a contact-tracing app. Regarding these potential measures, Yamaguchi said, "Athletes will be in the athletes' village, and their quarantine can be managed, but it will be difficult to manage and isolate foreign tourists in the same way."

    At present, 10 prefectures across Japan are subject to a state of emergency, and opinion polls by a number of news companies have shown that well below half of those surveyed want the Olympic and Paralympic Games to go ahead this summer. With spectator-less events in mind, Yamaguchi said, "We should publicize the options there are for holding the games, what kind of conditions we would need to hold them and other such information."

    Yamaguchi questioned the decision by the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games not to publicly disclose the process through which it picked Seiko Hashimoto to replace Yoshiro Mori as head of the committee following Mori's resignation over a sexism scandal.

    "The first meeting of the committee on the selection criteria and the course of discussion should have been made public. That way the intensity of their serious discussion would have been communicated to the public," Yamaguchi said.

    On Hashimoto, she added, "From the point of view of an athlete, I want her to present clear conditions for hosting the games so that the people can feel safe and secure."


    Profile: Kaori Yamaguchi, 56, was a judo practitioner who won the gold medal in the women's 52-kilogram event at the 1984 World Judo Championships. At the Seoul Olympic Games in 1988, the first time for women to compete in judo at the Olympics, Yamaguchi won a bronze medal.

    (Japanese original by Akira Matsumoto, Sports News Department)

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