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Japanese public backs ban on overseas visitors at Olympics

(ATF) Japan’s decision to ban visitors from overseas during the Olympic Games has been met with strong domestic public approval, a poll showed.

Organisers took the unprecedented decision to ban overseas fans from this summer’s virus-delayed Games on March 20, calling the move disappointing but “unavoidable” because of safety fears during the pandemic.

A poll by the Asahi Shimbun daily found that 85% of respondents think overseas fans should be barred from the event, with only 11% saying they should be allowed to attend.

But, the idea of even holding the Games as Japan continues to struggle with Covid-19 cases is controversial. While support for the quadrennial event is growing, most Japanese do not think the Games should go ahead as scheduled.

The weekend poll, which received responses from 1,564 people, found that barely more than a quarter of respondents (27%) think the Games should be held this summer, while 36% said it should be postponed again and 36% called for the event to be cancelled.


A similar poll in January found only 11% in favour of the Games going ahead this summer, a figure that rose to 21% in February. Games organisers have insisted another postponement is out of the question.

Another poll by the Kyodo news agency over the weekend found that 23% of respondents thought the Games should go ahead as scheduled, while 40% thought they should be cancelled.

Organisers insisted Japanese fans would “cheer for all athletes” after the unprecedented decision to bar overseas spectators.

Games sports director Mikako Kotani acknowledged the absence of overseas fans would be a “loss in terms of harmony and diversity” but insisted Japanese spectators can make up for it.

They would support athletes of all nationalities, and said she wants Tokyo to feel like “the whole world” this summer. “I want to make sure the athletes don’t feel that it’s only Japanese fans in the venues,” she said.

With reporting by Agence France-Presse


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George Russell

George Russell is a freelance writer and editor based in Hong Kong who has lived in Asia since 1996. His work has been published in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New York Post, Variety, Forbes and the South China Morning Post.


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