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Tokyo Olympics to be held largely without spectators

The Olympic Games in Tokyo will go ahead without spectators after Japan declared a coronavirus state of emergency for the capital that will run throughout the event.

Prime minister Yoshihide Suga says the new restrictions will in effect from 12 July and remain in place until 22 August, which will eclipse the Olympics.

The Games are scheduled to take place between 23 July to 8 August, while the Paralympic Games are between 24 August and 5 September.

Under the state of emergency, venues in Tokyo and other areas near the capital city will not be allowed to hold events with fans during the Games.

However, stadiums in the regions of Fukushima, Miyagi and Shizuoka will be permitted to have spectators up to 50% of capacity and up to 10,000 people.

“Taking into consideration the effect of coronavirus variants… we need to strengthen our countermeasures”

Bars and restaurants will not be allowed to serve alcohol and must close by 8 pm.

“Taking into consideration the effect of coronavirus variants and not to let the infections spread again to the rest of the nation, we need to strengthen our countermeasures,” says the prime minister.

Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto says: “It is regrettable that we are delivering the Games in a very limited format, facing the spread of coronavirus infections. I am sorry to those who purchased tickets and everyone in local areas.”

A new wave of infections in Japan began in April, with Tokyo and Osaka hit hardest by the recent surge. The capital was placed under a state of emergency earlier this year, and cinemas, museums and other event facilities were asked to reduce capacities.

Japan’s vaccination rollout has been slow, and just over 15% of the country is fully vaccinated, but overall the country has had relatively low case numbers and a death toll of around 14,900.

 


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Japan reduces event capacities in greater Tokyo

The Japanese government has asked cinemas, museums and other event facilities in greater Tokyo to reduce capacities after declaring a state of emergency in the area.

Prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, last Thursday (7 January) announced that Tokyo and three neighbouring prefectures of Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama – which together account for about 30% of the country’s population of 126 million – would be placed immediately under emergency measures for a month in a bid to curb surging Covid-19 cases.

Under the new restrictions, which will be in effect until at least 7 February, major events will be allowed to go ahead, with the cap for spectators revised down to 5,000 people or 50% of capacity, whichever is smaller.

“The situation has become increasingly troubling nationwide and we have a strong sense of crisis,” Suga said as he announced the new restrictions. “We fear that the nationwide, rapid spread of the coronavirus is having a big impact on people’s lives and the economy.”

“We fear that the nationwide, rapid spread of the coronavirus is having a big impact on people’s lives and the economy”

Unlike Japan’s first state of emergency in last spring, schools and non-essential businesses will not be asked to close.

Gyms, department stores and entertainment facilities will be asked to shorten their opening hours and an estimated 150,000 bars and restaurants in Tokyo and the three neighbouring prefectures will be asked to stop serving alcohol at 7 pm and to close an hour later. Residents are encouraged to avoid non-essential outings after 8 pm.

The state of emergency was declared as Tokyo reported a record 2,447 new infections on Thursday, up from 1,591 on Wednesday.

Despite the worrying surge, Japanese and International Olympic Committee officials have insisted that the global pandemic will not derail plans to open the already postponed Tokyo Olympics on 23 July, and last week Suga insisted he was still committed to holding the Olympics as “proof of mankind’s victory over the virus”.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics is scheduled to run from 23 July to 8 August, with the Paralympics due to follow from 24 August to 5 September.

 


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Famed Nippon Budokan arena unveils Olympic overhaul

Modernisation work on Japan’s Nippon Budokan arena – famously the venue for the Beatles’ only Japanese concerts – has concluded, just under a year before the Tokyo 2020 Olympic games.

Known as the spiritual home of Japanese martial arts, the 14,471-capacity indoor arena, located in Tokyo’s Chiyoda ward, is also one of Japan’s best-known large concert venues. In addition to hosting the Fab Four in 1966, the Budokan was the site of Abba’s last-ever show in 1980, and is also a popular venue for live recordings: celebrated albums Made in Japan (Deep Purple), Cheap Trick at Budokan (Cheap Trick), Live in Japan (the Carpenters), Bob Dylan at Budokan (Bob Dylan) and Live at the Budokan (Blur) were all recorded at the arena.

At the 2020 Olympics, which have been postponed to 23 July–8 August 2021 because of Covid-19, the Budokan will host judo and karate events, according to the Yomiuri Shimbun. Its Olympic capacity will be 11,000.

The Budokan is one of seven central-Tokyo venues being used for the 2020 games

Among the new-for-2020 additions are an earthquake-proof roof, permanent accessible seating with space for wheelchairs, new LED lighting inside and out, and a training hall for athletes.

Images captured by the Asahi Shimbun (via Getty) show the arena’s new roof and decor, as well as a socially distanced completion ceremony held on Wednesday 29 July.

The Budokan is one of seven central-Tokyo venues, many of which (like the Budokan) were built for the 1964 Olympics, being used for the 2020 games, while another 13 – including the new Ariake Arena – are located in the Tokyo Bay area.

The Ariake Arena is one of several large venues being created especially for the Olympics, along with the now-completed 80,000-capacity New National Stadium, 15,000-capacity Oi Hockey Stadium and the 10,000-capacity Musashino Forest Sport Plaza. The 2020 Olympics will take place across 41 venues in total.

 


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Tokyo unveils new 15,000-seat Ariake Arena

The Ariake Arena, a new US$340 million and 15,000-seat venue in the Japanese capital, was inaugurated on Sunday (2 February), with a performance from J-pop band AKB48.

The arena, which will host volleyball and wheelchair basketball at the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, will be used to stage entertainment and cultural events after the games.

A concave roof is the main feature of the venue, which includes both a main arena and “sub arena”, minimising the need for lighting and air conditioning. The arena will be accessible to all, in keeping with new priorities of the Japanese live music business.

The new events space will help to address the scarcity of large venues in the world’s most populated city.

“The big story in Japan – the big story in Tokyo, specifically – is the lack of venues,” Live Nation Japan president John Boyle, told IQ last year.

“Tokyo has a population of 37m people, and for a market that big, there’s five or six venues that are bigger than 10,000 capacity. In LA, there’s probably 15 or 20 for a market that is a fraction of the size.”

“The big story in Japan – the big story in Tokyo, specifically – is the lack of venues”

Ariake Arena joins current big show favourites the Tokyo Dome (55,000-cap.), Makuhari Messe convention centre (9,000-cap.) and the Saitama Super Arena (37,000-cap.).

It is one of a number of new venues being created for the Olympics, along with the 68-80,000-capacity New National Stadium, 15,000-capacity Oi Hockey Stadium and the 10,000-capacity Musashino Forest Sport Plaza, which has already played host to Judas Priest, with upcoming concerts from K-pop band NCT 127.

The Olympics has also seen the temporary closing of “some large, pivotal venues”, Takao Kito, director of Japanese promoters’ association ACPC told IQ, which has led to a decline of event numbers.

“When the competition venues are restored to their original condition after the Olympics, and new venues are constructed in the metropolitan area, this issue will be solved,” explained Kito. “Actually, we guess venues will be rather oversupplied because of the upsurge of venues.”

Read the whole of IQ’s Japanese market focus here.

Land of the rise in fun: Why booming Japan is such a tough market to crack

Photo: Edo Village/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0) (cropped)

 


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