TOKYO (JAPAN) – The decision on letting overseas spectators attend the Olympics will be made by March said Olympics Minister Tamayo Marukawa on Wednesday.
Her comments were echoed by the head of the organising committee for the Games, Seiko Hashimoto, who said she would like to reach the decision by March 25.
The government was planning to ban overseas spectators due to worries they would spread the coronavirus, reported a local media citing multiple unnamed sources.
“On the matter of overseas spectators … I personally want to have it decided by the 25th of this month, when the Olympic torch relay will be kicked off,” Hashimoto told reporters after a virtual meeting with International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach and others.
“It is true that the situation is tough both in and outside Japan … It would not be good if their entry stirred worry among the Japanese people.”
A poll conducted by Yomiuri newspaper showed on Wednesday that, if the Games are to go ahead as scheduled, 91% of people in Japan want spectators kept to a minimum or not allowed at all.
The poll – conducted between Jan. 18 and Feb. 25 – showed 70% of respondents said they were “interested in the Olympics”, but 58% said they did not want them to be held this year because of fears over COVID-19.
The 58% in opposition was, however, about 20 percentage points lower than earlier opinion polls.
A survey by global consultancy Kekst CNC published on Wednesday showed similar rates of majority opposition to the Games going ahead in Japan, at 56%, as well as in Britain and Germany, at 55% and 52% respectively.
In France and Sweden, more people opposed than approved, while in the United States, respondents were split at one-third between those who agreed and disagreed that the Games should go ahead, according to the survey.
Another poll published by a popular news agency last month showed nearly two-thirds of Japanese companies also oppose holding the Games as planned, swinging from the previous survey showing most in favour.