(ATR) Tokyo 2020 held two press conferences on Friday as the organizing committee of the postponed Olympics tried to explain its new policy over tickets and to tackle questions from the domestic and international media who are arriving in the country en masse.
The back-to-back press conferences followed Thursday’s long-mooted announcement of fans being barred from attending events in Tokyo amid a surge in COVID-19 cases in the host nation.
Tokyo reported 822 new cases on Friday as opposed to 526 cases last Friday while vaccination figures increased to 21.3 million people now being fully vaccinated (16.8% of the total population).
Hidenori Suzuki, Deputy Executive Director, Marketing and Senior Director of Ticketing, had the task of elaborating on Thursday’s decision and what it now means for current ticket holders as well as the ticket lottery and the situation for events outside of Tokyo.
"Based on yesterday’s decision, for those who have bought tickets, yes we had a five-party meeting and made the decision for no fans in Tokyo and the surrounding prefectures. It’s very sad but there was no other option to prevent infections.
"I’m sorry on behalf of the team to the fans," said the visibly emotional Suzuki.
"At the same time other areas will have fans, 50 percent or less [of capacity] and we will announce results of second ticket lottery on 10 July.
"When fans do come in to venues please help us by following the protocols for preventing the spread of COVID-19. We will make sure that we will demonstrate we can overcome these hardships with people in Japan and worldwide. We want to showcase the performances of the athletes."
The complete ban on fans in Tokyo and the surrounding areas does not apply to venues in Hokkaido, Shizuoka, Ibaraki, Miyagi and Fukushima.
"Fans were very excited to see the Olympic Games with their friends and family and we’re sorry we couldn’t provide that. We plan to allow fans in other regions with certain conditions," Suzuki said.
"Hokkaido features football matches in the Sapporo Dome, we are awaiting feedback from the region before making an announcement about the ticket policy for Hokkaido. Miyagi has football games in Miyagi stadium and there are sessions after 21.00, fans are allowed there. For Fukushima, baseball and softball will be held with spectators. Ibaraki has football, this is available for school programs only. A limited number of fans will be allowed in Shizuoka, which will feature the mountain bike competition."
"The results of the final ticket lottery will be announced on 10 July and fans can download and print their tickets in pdf format. Fans can apply for refunds between 10-20 July.
"For venues not allowing fans, if the status of your ticket says invalid then the refund process is automatic. As I said in the last presentation, there is confusion over this. If iyour ticket is invalid because its a non-spectator event or due to the results of the new lottery – the refund process will start after Olympics. If you paid by cash in a store you will need to share your bank account details for a refund."
Suzuki also reaffirmed the essential COVID-19 countermeasures which fans will be requested to follow.
"When you come to venue please come directly and go home directly afterwards. Please refrain from conversation. Be cautious if you're travelling from other areas – please wear a mask, respect social distancing, wash your hands, refrain from chanting or whistling. You will be required to wear a mask at all times except when eating. Also, we may ask you to change seats in the venue, please cooperate if we do so.
Hashimoto's Final Weekly Press Conference
Suzuki’s press conference regarding the new ticketing policy followed the last regular and weekly pre-Games conference by Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto.
Hashimoto was quizzed on a range of subjects including volunteers, feedback to the decision over no fans in Tokyo, the lateness of that decision and medical care.
"Volunteers have gone through training and done a lot to prepare for the Olympic Games. We need to make a very rapid decision on how we change the structure of the volunteering in light of Thursday’s decision.
"Urgently we have to address and solve various problems. How do we allocate the volunteers now and change their work? How many do we reduce by or do we change their work? We have many challenges that we need to address. We have to coordinate very well and communicate closely. We will be very thorough."
Hashimoto was asked what feedback Tokyo 2020 had received from the athletes regarding the decision to press ahead without fans.
"Athletes are all different, I of course was an athlete, I want spectators to watch but not being able to do that, I hope that the athletes can perform well without spectators. Looking at the infection status, athletes have made efforts to do their best even without fans. Athletes have their own way of thinking. By overcoming such a situation they will build their own legacies."
Adjustments will now also need to be made to Tokyo 2020’s medical care and talks are underway with the relevant parties.
"We are speaking with the Medical Associations of Tokyo and Japan, we are communicating well, we are getting advice about reducing the risk of infections. We can minimize the affect of local health care by this decision of having no fans in Tokyo venues.
"If one medical facility was required before in Tokyo we can now potentially reduce that. We will re-analyze this very quickly because we need an urgent decision."
The lateness of the decision about tickets and fans being barred from Tokyo events has left a lot of fans frustrated. Hashimoto conceded that the organizing committee wanted to make a decision earlier but due to the ever-changing situation with COVID-19 case numbers and the volume of key stakeholders, it was an elongated but essential process.
"We wanted to make the decision as soon as possible but while we made our preparations for many years, we made the decision last year to postpone the Games for one year. We looked at many different situations, implementing very good protocols for infectious diseases but one of biggest questions was about spectators. We made the decision some time ago to not allow fans from abroad. A lot of voices to our committee said they wanted to be there physically to see the Games. We’ve shared the voices too. We couldn’t make a decision at the organizing committee alone, the municipalities and Tokyo Metropolitan Government, IOC, IPC and a lot of stakeholders factored into this latest decision which is why it took so long.
The upcoming visits next week by IOC President Thomas Bach and IOC Vice President John Coates, to Hiroshima and Nagasaki respectively, have received scrutiny and Hashimoto addressed the topic and said the reason for the visits is to promote a message of peace.
"The principle of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games is peace. Japan is the only country to have been hit by an atomic bomb. We are hearing strong voices from locals to send out a peace message from these cities. One week before the opening ceremony, on 16 July there is a resolution of peace. We will mark 59 days of a truce from this first day. We have a request for this date. We need to have thorough measures to prevent infections.
"For President Bach and Chair Coates we would like to have them visit the cities to communicate peace inside and outside of Japan. We need to have thorough measures, if there’s not enough measures, it would make a lot of people worry."
Hashimoto also revealed that a decision regarding fans attending the Paralympic Games is set to be made after the Olympics.
"During Olympic Games time, five-party meetings might be held if there’s emergencies. I believe it’s difficult during Games time, but after Games closes, we’d like to make a decision about the Paralympics as soon as possible, otherwise it will impact the Paralympic Games preparation."
Written and reported by Mark Pickering in Tokyo
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