Olympic fans may be banned from cheering in Tokyo

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It has become apparent that supporters could be asked not to shout, scream or cheer at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021 

A top official linked to the games suggested on Thursday that a cheering ban could be put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The suggestion comes after Tokyo staged a gymnastics test event on Sunday where mask-wearing spectators were encouraged not to shout or cheer, but rather confine themselves to polite applause and murmurs of approval.

Quarantine could get the axe

Tokyo 2020 chief executive Toshiro Muto said fans arriving in Japan are likely to be spared a mandatory two-week quarantine. Organisers say it would be too hard to enforce the quarantine due to the sheer number of spectators expected to make the trip.

Muto said officials were considering urging fans not to shout or talk loudly, to minimise the risk of infections at the postponed Games.

“There’s a possibility that we might ask the (Olympic) spectators to refrain from shouting or talking in a loud voice,” Muto said after a committee meeting this week. 

“When we think of the impact, we believe it is an item for consideration, to reduce the risk of airborne droplets.”

Muto conceded that the “practicality and feasibility” of a ban on cheering needed to be considered.

Many sports competitions across the globe have now picked back up after shutting down for the pandemic, but the majority are taking place behind closed doors.

Fans have been allowed to return to sports events in Japan, usually in limited numbers, but they are advised not to shout and cheer. Traditional sumo wrestling helped lead the push for a return of sport with spectators earlier this year.

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said this week that he was increasingly confident that a “reasonable number” of fans will be allowed at Tokyo 2020.

Muto intimated that officials were mulling a move to waive quarantine for arriving fans and replace it with a series of tests and health checks.

While Athletes’ and officials’ movements are set to be heavily restricted for 14 days after they enter the country, this is difficult to implement for fans, according to Muto.

“As the number of foreign spectators is so high, 14 days of quarantine and a ban on public transport use is unrealistic,” he told reporters after a committee meeting.

“Pre-visit tests and health monitoring, careful screening at the border, post-entry checks on activities and health, (and) taking swift measures if symptoms appear,” said Muto in detailing what measures would be taken to ensure cases do not spike in Japan as a result of the games.

The Games were postponed for a year due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

However, despite a rising caseload worldwide, the outlook is brightening for the Games.

Sunday’s four-nation gymnastics competition held in tightly controlled bio-secure conditions follows a baseball game held in Tokyo at near-capacity.

Positive signs for Olympic Games

Olympic chief Bach believes these events are a positive sign.

“Having seen the different tests in Japan, we can become more and more confident that we will have a reasonable number of spectators also in Olympic venues,” he said after an IOC executive board meeting.

“How many and under which conditions, it will… very much depend on future developments.”

Japan has a strict ban on practically all in-bound foreign tourism in place at the moment. 

Muto projected that the number of spectators, or rules for visiting crowds, would be decided in the Japanese spring.

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