© Reuters. Nippon Professional Baseball Game between Yomiuri Giants and Hiroshima Carp in Tokyo
By Jack Tarrant
TOKYO (Reuters) – Yokohama Stadium will hold three baseball games at around 80% capacity later this month as Japan looks to test its COVID-19 countermeasures at big events ahead of the rearranged Tokyo Olympics next year.
Professional sports stadiums in Japan have been limited to 50% capacity as part of efforts to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, with the vast majority of games going ahead without issue.
Economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who heads Japan’s COVID-19 fight, told reporters late on Thursday that if the “experiment” was a success all professional stadiums would be allowed to boost capacity.
The Yokohama Baystars, who play at the 34,000-capacity Yokohama Stadium, which will also be used during the Olympics, confirmed in a statement that three games would be played at the venue with capacity set at around 80%.
On Thursday at the Tokyo Dome, where the Yomiuri Giants hosted Hiroshima Carp, 19,000 fans attended the game with full coronavirus countermeasures on display.
As well as having their temperature checked upon entry and disinfectant being available throughout the venue, which can host up to 45,000, all fans had to give their contact details to staff in case of an outbreak.
Giants fans have even changed their most popular chant to involve less yelling and vigorous movement that may spread the virus, while there was no sign of the ‘uriko’ beer vendors who are usually bringing drinks to fans in their seats.
“After being able to accept spectators, we have done various anti-coronavirus measures that we hadn’t done before,” Masatoshi Yamada, an official from the Giants’ promotional department, told Reuters.
“We have proposed a new cheering style, which is to cheer without shouting, as well as disinfection of seats and distribution of alcohol wipes.”
‘SENSE OF SAFETY’
Yamada said that Tokyo 2020 officials had visited and seen the countermeasures for themselves.
“We hope it can be one future reference for the success of the Tokyo Olympics next year,” he said.
Fans said they felt safe with the additional measures in place and were thrilled to be back watching their beloved team.
“If one’s mask is not in a proper position, security staff immediately approaches that person and asks them to wear it properly,” said Yoshiko Matsuo, who attended the game with her daughter.
“Also, there are alcohol disinfection kits everywhere. So, I think we can come to the stadium with a sense of safety.”
Tokyo Games organisers, who have yet to decide whether to allow spectators into venues during the Olympics, told Reuters they would assess the impact of the countermeasures on show at the Dome.
“It is encouraging to see sport putting a smile on people’s faces every day,” Tokyo 2020 told Reuters via email.
“We see this as a valuable opportunity to gain expertise on COVID-19 countermeasures and are exchanging information with parties involved.”
Over seven million tickets have already been sold for the Games.