Clare Balding: Tokyo Olympics could be closed to foreign fans

Clare Balding has said the 2021 Tokyo Olympics could be closed to foreign fans if the pandemic continues into next summer.

The sports broadcaster, who was due to commentate at the postponed event this year, said Japan was at an advantage in controlling the virus.

Speaking on The Jonathan Ross Show, the 49-year-old said she hoped Japanese authorities were able to go ahead with the event.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics Postponed
The games were postponed until next year (Adam Davy/PA)

She said: “I think the huge advantage that Japan has is it has quite limited access points in, so they can monitor quite well.

“As a nation people are very law abiding and that really helps.

“I think what they might end up doing, I suspect, is maybe only Japanese fans – now that’s not a problem, they will fill every stadium, they’re so keen to have it – and I would hope that with the athletes and with the surrounding support network around them, they can test and monitor and make sure that’s all safe.

“I really hope it goes ahead next year. I think one of the things we’ve maybe missed the most is the shared experience and sport is a great example of that, so is theatre, so is going to the cinema – lots of things.”

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The games were postponed by 12 months due to the coronavirus pandemic and are now scheduled to get under way on July 23 next year.

Balding also addressed the challenges of commentating on football matches without a crowd present.

She said: “It’s really strange. I’ve been to a few live matches, I do women’s football, you can hear everything the players are saying. Of course with a crowd you’d never be able to do that.

“And once I shouted very loudly, ‘That was rubbish’ and literally the player looked around at me. I thought, ‘Oh no! I’ve got to learn to rein it in’, I was getting involved.”

Balding said she could hear “quite a lot of complaining to the referee and screaming when they go down” as players tried to get a penalty or free kick.

She added: “I think the referee is much more influenced by the screams because they can really hear it.”

The Jonathan Ross Show is on Saturday at 10.15pm on ITV.

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