The International Olympic Committee has slashed the number of officials that will attend the Tokyo Olympics following a request by the Games’ organisers.
Kyodo News reported that the number of non-athlete officials and other participants at the Games is being halved to 30,000. Those affected are expected to include IOC and International Paralympic Committee officials, national and regional Olympic committee officials, international federation officials, guests of sponsors, and media.
The number of athletes, coaches and other team members is expected to remain at around 30,000 across the Olympics and Paralympics. An additional 60,000 other officials were originally expected to attend the two Games.
The IOC executive board on Friday said accreditation would only be given to those who have “essential and operational roles” at the Games.
The Olympic torch relay got underway last Thursday in Fukushima province. The rebuilding of Japan following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami is one of the central themes of the Games. Fukushima was one of the hardest-hit regions by the disaster and the torch relay is to showcase some of the $300bn (€255bn) in regeneration work carried out there.
Japan Today reported that spectators lined the route of the first day of the torch relay, with most maintaining social distancing and wearing masks. Some images from the event showed significant numbers of people assembled closely together at certain points along the route. Organisers had requested that spectators also refrain from cheering, suggesting they clap instead.
Some protestors against the Olympics have made appearances at the torch relay.
The Tokyo Olympics organisers have been finalising their preparations for the Games amid close scrutiny from the public and media in Japan. According to various opinion polls, large proportions of the Japanese public are dubious about hosting the Games this year in light of the pandemic. Medical professionals have also expressed concerns.
The Japanese government and the event organising committee have insisted they can run the Games in a safe way, that will not exacerbate the Covid-19 situation. Japan has this winter been battling a third wave of the virus, its deadliest yet. The country’s vaccination drive has been slow. Only around 700,000 of the 126 million population have been vaccinated so far.
Two weeks ago, it was decided that fans from outside Japan would not be allowed to attend the Games. Talks will take place next month on the number of Japanese fans that will be allowed into Games venues. New versions will also be released month of the organisers’ ‘playbooks’ to minimise the Covid-19 threat.
The Olympics are to begin in four months’ time, on July 23.