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Tokyo Olympics: Venue medical officers want no spectators amid COVID-19 fears

The daunting task of keeping the world’s largest sporting event safe faces some more controversy, with some emergency medicine officers overseeing Tokyo Olympics venues calling on the organizers to bar spectators over risks of a jump in COVID-19 cases. Organisers could decide on the exact number of spectators at each venue as soon as Monday. The initial reports have mentioned that the Tokyo 2020 president was expecting around 10,000 people for every venue, despite health experts around the world warned against in person audiences.

While overwhelming public opposition to the Games has eased to some extent, a Friday poll from Jiji news found 41% still want the Games cancelled. If the Games were to take place, 64% of the public want them without spectators, the poll found.

All 42 venues have a dedicated official in charge of medical services. Old medics are assigned to handle problems ranging from heat strokes to injuries to natural disasters, such as earthquakes and typhoons. With the opening ceremony set for July 23, Shoji Yokobori, the medical officer for the weightlifting venue, said he fears not knowing how many people will attend.

According to Reuters, Olympic organizers have held conference calls with the doctors once or twice a month but have provided only “rough” information so far.

This is a challenge as Medical officers do not have an exact figure on the number of people in the venue, which is why they believe it is better to keep the games without any spectators to mitigate the risks.

The medical officers work closely with personnel at local medical stations for athletes and spectators bringing together the overall medical service, including transfer to hospitals and clinics. A number of venue medical officers have quit in recent months, mentioning the health crisis, public broadcaster NHK reported this month.

Yanagawa, who runs an emergency medical center in the area, said he was worried that the volunteers at his venue lack training in relation to infectious diseases. “But the ball is in the organizers’ court,” Yanagawa said. “The Games without spectators would be easy to control, but we don’t make the decisions. All I can say is we have to prepare based on what the organizers decide.”

It will be a complicated situation for the organisers as they tackle the ongoing health crisis and revenue for the games. The organisers must consider the insights from the medical officers for a safe and secure Olympics as the games continue to face controversy.

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