By G9ija

The 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing “need” spectators, a leading International Olympic Committee official said on Wednesday, as the action began at the Tokyo Games without crowds because of the coronavirus.

China, which will host the Winter Games in less than 200 days, has largely sealed its borders because of the pandemic and has strict quarantine requirements usually lasting three weeks.

Despite that, Juan Antonio Samaranch, who heads the IOC’s coordination commission for Beijing, told an IOC meeting in Tokyo: “We need and we want to have spectators.

“We would like to have (the) international community there. We would like to have the opportunity for everybody to enjoy the hospitality and enjoy the great Chinese offers.”

China, which has reduced virus infections to a trickle within its borders, has so far given no details about how it plans to have crowds — if at all — at the Beijing Games.

The Tokyo Olympics were pushed back a year because of the coronavirus, meaning there are just six months between those and the Beijing Winter Games.

The Tokyo opening ceremony is on Friday but the sport started on Wednesday when the hosts thrashed Australia 8-1 in softball.

Fans are barred from most of the Olympics and the game took place in front of empty stands at Fukushima, which was ravaged by an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in 2011.

AFP