No alcohol, no hugs, no cheers and no autographs – Tokyo Olympic organisers have unveiled tough new rules for spectators at the Summer Games, due to begin in a month.
Seiko Hashimoto, president of the Tokyo 2020 Games, which were postponed from last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, warned on Wednesday that festivities “will have to be suppressed” to keep the event safe and conceded that organisers will need to be “creative” to stoke a celebratory atmosphere.
Games chiefs decided on Monday to allow up to 10,000 spectators into competition venues, but Hashimoto warned them not to expect the kind of festive mood currently being enjoyed by football fans at Euro 2020.
“In Europe, the venues are filled with celebration,” Hashimoto said. “Unfortunately, we may not be able to do the same.”
Spectators will need to clear several antivirus requirements, including temperature checks and mask-wearing, just to get into venues. No refunds are available for those who fail to fulfil the requirements.
Once inside, they are forbidden from cheering or “making direct contact with other spectators” and will be asked to go straight home after the end of the event.
Asking athletes for autographs or “expressing verbal support” is also a no-no, as is waving a towel or “any form of cheering that could create a crowd”.
“The festive mood will have to be suppressed – that has become a major challenge,” Hashimoto told reporters. “People can feel joy in their hearts, but they can’t be loud and they have to avoid crowds.
“Those are the areas where we need to be creative, and we are putting in a lot of effort to come up with a new way of celebrating.”
Spectators will also have to do without alcohol, even though it is allowed at other sporting events currently being held in Japan.
Hashimoto said the ban was decided “to alleviate the concerns of the public as much as possible”.
Al Jazeera’s Fadi Salameh, reporting from Tokyo, said there are many “challenges” ahead of the event.
“The fun and celebration expected in an international event won’t be seen in Tokyo,” Salameh said.
“Many of the events, especially the cultural events… are cancelled. The athletes have to say in the Olympic village. They can’t go out, they have to report every day and get tested daily. There are so many challenges just a month away from the Olympics.”
With the July 23 opening ceremony nearing, organisers are scrambling to finalise preparations and win over a sceptical public, pledging the Games will be safe for locals and participants.
Domestic opposition to the Games has softened recently, but about half of Japan’s public is still against the event opening in four weeks, polls show.