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Tokyo Olympics organizers to allow alcohol to be sold at venues

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Organizers of the Tokyo Olympics plan to allow alcoholic beverages to be sold to spectators at competition venues during the global sports event but with restrictions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, sources close to the matter said Tuesday.

The decision was apparently made in consideration of a sponsorship contract with an alcoholic beverage company.

Organizers will likely set time limits for such sales, the sources said, as the Japanese capital readies itself for the start of the games in around a month.

A guideline on spectators for the Tokyo Olympics, due to kick off on July 23, will be unveiled later this week. In its draft, organizers ask spectators to refrain from eating and drinking in groups in passageways at the venues, and to travel to and from venues directly without stopping anywhere, as part of measures to reduce the risk of virus spread.

Seiko Hashimoto, president of the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee, said Monday the sale of alcoholic drinks to spectators is “being considered” but is dependent on whether people can be deterred from speaking loudly or shouting and whether they can observe safety protocols when moving inside the venues.

Rules currently in place for the general public in Japan will also be a factor in considering whether such beverages can be sold, she said.

In Tokyo and other prefectures that are currently under a quasi-state of emergency through July 11, serving alcohol at restaurants and bars is conditionally allowed until 7 p.m.

In the capital, people are now allowed to drink alcohol alone or in pairs for up to 90 minutes between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. at restaurants and bars certified as having taken steps to control infection.

For areas under the state of emergency, the sale of alcohol at most sports events was banned, while there were cases of time-limited sale in areas under the quasi-state of emergency.

The news regarding a plan to sell alcohol during the Olympics quickly drew criticism online as residents of the capital grapple with curbs on bars.

“The biggest problem is preferential treatment: events are good but cinemas are bad. The Olympics are okay but live venues are no good,” wrote @save_the_cinema on Twitter, a campaign for emergency funding for cinemas.

Social gatherings with drinking have been a target of government action as they are seen as driving infection by encouraging loud speaking and lingering at the bar.

Questions around alcohol have become a focal point for public anger in part due to a perception that authorities are prioritizing holding the games over restoring normality to the daily lives of residents.

The government has said it can hold the event without compromising public health. While vaccinations are ramping up, most of the population is yet to receive their first shot 31 days from the start of the games.

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