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Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Japan to let Olympic athletes in as early as March

70,000 to 80,000 arrivals expected through the program

Athletes from South Sudan train in Maebashi, north of Tokyo, in preparation for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Japan plans to remove the entry ban on foreign athletes participating in the Tokyo Olympics soon after the country's emergency declaration order is lifted next month, Nikkei has learned.

With the July 23 opening ceremony less than five months away, and trial matches for wheelchair rugby and other sports due to begin in April, letting athletes into the country has become imperative. The emergency declaration is slated to be lifted March 7 for all regions, and the travel ban on foreign athletes will be removed soon after.

Japan currently has a blanket ban on foreign arrivals. Exemptions are offered only for special cases such as family reunification, international conferences and medical reasons. The government will expand the exemptions to allow Olympic athletes, their coaches and other personnel.

Olympic athletes will not be subject to the two-week self-isolation requirement, allowing them to prepare for the games. Instead, they will be ordered not to go beyond their lodgings or sports venues.

Arrivals via the Olympics exemption will not be permitted to use public transportation, and travel will be restricted to dedicated buses or other vehicles. Smartphone apps will be used to monitor their health and track movements.

Japan estimates that 70,000 to 80,000 people will arrive through this pathway including athletes, coaches and media personnel. The Immigration Services Agency and other bodies will handle the screening process, with entry granted on a case-by-case basis.

Japan has suspended new entries for business purposes. A business track program for short-term stays applies to four countries including China and South Korea. A residence track for long-term stays is applicable to 11 countries and territories. But both have been halted to prevent the spread of coronavirus variants.

The government will relax rules for spectator capacity. For regions under the emergency declaration, no more than 5,000 people are allowed in sports venues. The cap will be raised to 10,000 people about a month after the lifting of the emergency order. Prefectures will be allowed to experiment with raising the maximum to 20,000.

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