Fans return to Yokohama Baseball Stadium in Tokyo Games milestone

BayStars-Tigers game opened to full capacity - a first by any sporting event in Japan since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

By Shintaro Kano

Sports fans in Japan and organisers of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games reacted positively on Sunday (1 November) as the Olympic baseball and softball venue, Yokohama Stadium, was fully re-opened to spectators.

It is the first time in the COVID-19 era that a major Japanese sporting event allowed for 100 per cent capacity, with the latest coronavirus countermeasures in place.

The final crowd figure at the 32,402-seater for the Nippon Professional Baseball game between the DeNA BayStars and Hanshin Tigers totaled at 27,850.

Tokyo 2020 Games Delivery Officer Nakamura Hidemasa was encouraged by the results of three days of counter-coronavirus testing at the ballpark, that will house many of the games during the Olympics in 2021.

"We saw great teamwork from the people onsite combined with the latest technology available at an official Olympic venue", Nakamura, who was part of Tokyo 2020's 10-man inspection team, told reporters.

An inspection team from the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee checks out the latest corona countermeasures at the Olympic baseball/softball venue.

"There is still plenty of work ahead but at the Games next summer, I expect the type of teamwork we saw today and cutting-edge technology to be on full display. It will help us host a safe and secure Games for athletes and spectators alike. There is a lot we can take from this.

"At the end of the day it's the people who will make it happen. And you have to like what we saw".

The tests were jointly conducted by the city of Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, the home team BayStars and several technology firms that made the experiments possible.

The results will be shared with the national government, which oversees a three-way commission on COVID countermeasures for the Games with the metropolitan government and Tokyo 2020.

Since the start of the pandemic, crowds at sporting events in Japan had been capped at a maximum 50 per cent capacity prior to this weekend's series at Yokohama Stadium.

Friday's game permitted 80 per cent seating, Saturday's game 90 per cent, before the cap was fully lifted on Sunday for this game. The BayStars won 6-5 with a single in the bottom of the ninth inning, to delight the home crowd.

A smartphone app shows where congestion is at the venue.

Fans were screened at the gates for masks, body temperature, and hand sanitizing. They also entered and left the stadium in blocks to alleviate congestion.

High-spec cameras tracked the movement of aerosols in the stands and through the use of a smartphone app, a spectator could tell which areas of the stadium were crowded at any given time.

Nakamura said the tests and trials will continue, as Japanese develop a plan for organising a safe Games from 23 July-8 August 2021.

"We have to keep demonstrating what we are doing and how we are doing it so the world knows what to expect", Nakamura said. "With hard facts".

DeNA BayStars and Hanshin Tigers pack Yokohama Stadium on Sunday.


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