Asia: Workers Stadium, Eric Chou, Olympic Ticketholders

Photo by TPG/Getty Images
– Eric Chou
Eric Chou sold out two nights at Taiwan Arena in Taiwan Aug. 8-9 for a pair of shows with a plethora of COVID-19 protections in place.
Eric Chou Sells Out Taiwan Arena Twice
Those who are curious about the future of live concertgoing in the post-COVID world are invited to look at Eric Chou’s recent Taiwan Arena concerts, both of which were sold out. On the surface, it looked like a normal concert, according to the South China Morning Post, with fans singing along with their hero and phones snapping photos of the stage action.
However, a great deal of pre-event preparation took place to make this all happen. Taiwan only allowed the concerts to go ahead after the island recorded no new cases of COVID-19 for eight weeks straight. In addition, the list of guidelines for the concert submitted by the Taipei Department of Health was quite long. All people entering the arena had to get there early to pass through a gauntlet of safety measures, including a body temperature check (anyone over 37.5 C was refused entry) and mandatory hand washing. Face masks were also mandatory. Fans had to present ID or enter contact details on a government website in order to receive a QR code in case they needed to be traced later. 
The promoters helped out by offering those in attendance 40,000 face masks for all four of Chou’s Taiwan shows (two more are scheduled for September). Chou said later that he was quite happy with the way things went. “We were the first to do it during this COVID-19 situation,” he said. “But the show went really well, every part was exactly like how I pictured it was going to be.”
China Rebuilding Beijing Stadium To Woo FIFA
As part of its plan to attract interest in its bid to host the FIFA World Cup, China is quickly tearing down the famous Workers Stadium in Beijing. One of the city’s premiere landmarks, the stadium will be completely rebuilt and open by December 2022. AFP reports that “groups of people” gathered to watch the demolition of the stadium, which was leveled in a matter of days. Afterwards, the only thing standing was a pair of goalposts on the central field.
Workers Stadium was built in 1959 as one of ten major construction projects to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the birth of the Peoples Republic. It is best known now as the home of the Beijing Guoan soccer team of the Chinese Super League and the host stadium for soccer matches at the 2008 Olympic Games. It also saw many major pop concerts and hosted the 2004 Asian Cup final, when China lost to Japan under what AFP calls “contentious circumstances.”
The old Workers Stadium could hold 65,000 people, and the new one is already slated to host the 2023 Asian Cup matches. However, as AFP points out, large-scale stadiums are now being built all over China, the largest of which will be in the city of Guangzhou, with 100,000 seats. 
Japan Extends Audience Restrictions
The Japanese government on Aug. 24 decided to extend the limitation on audience numbers an extra month. Previously, the limitation of 5,000 people for concerts, professional sports and other events was set to expire at the end of August, but the government has decided, on the advice of a panel of health experts, to keep the limitation in place until the end of September. In August, the country has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases, especially in the major cities, and the authorities are afraid of placing too much strain on Japan’s medical facilities. 
Though there are some signs that surge may be abating, experts have told the government that plans to reopen the economy are perhaps moving too fast. The minister in charge of economic revitalization, Yasutoshi Nishimura, told reporters that the government might decide to remove the audience cap before the end of September if the daily rate of infections falls significantly. 
The maximum allowable audience number was increased from 1,000 to 5,000 on July 10, with a plan to relax the restriction even further on Aug. 1, but an unexpected surge in cases emerged in the middle of July. In practical terms, there have been hardly any concerts taking place in Japan for the past several months, and sporting events have already said they would maintain the 5,000-person limit indefinitely, regardless of the size of the venue. 
A-Nation Goes Digital
A-nation, one of Japan’s largest summer pop music festivals, will celebrate its 19th year on Aug. 29 with a worldwide broadcast that features more than 50 Japanese and South Korean artists associated with Japan’s biggest independent record label, Avex. 
The special online version of the festival will take place simultaneously from five stages situated throughout Asia. Three of the stages will only be available to digital ticket holders, while the remaining two stages will be viewable for free. Among the acts slated to appear at a-nation 2020 are Ayumi Hamasaki, Daichi Miura, Koda Kumi, Super Junior, Back-On, SuperM and The World Standard. Normally, a-nation takes places at different venues over the course of several weekends, but this year it will be a one-day-only event. 
Tokyo Olympics Torch
AP Photo / Eugene Hoshiko
– Tokyo Olympics Torch
Former judo Olympic medalist Tadahiro Nomura holds the Olympic torch of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games during a press conference in Tokyo Wednesday, March 20, 2019. The Tokyo Olympics were set to open on July 24, 2020.
Olympic Ticketholders Left Waiting
People who have already bought tickets for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, which have been postponed a year to the summer of 2021 due to the COVID-19 crisis, are still wondering if they will ever be able to use them; or, for that matter, if they will get their money back if they can’t use them. 
Officially, the Games will start July 23, 2021, and the organizers have said little except that they will definitely take place, but as the pandemic continues to evolve, many people have questions that no one in a position of authority seems to want to answer. 
The Associated Press interviewed professionals in the ticketing business on their views. One who runs a Facebook page that provides information about Tokyo Olympics ticket information said that there are many conflicting stories. This is par for the course at any Olympics, especially when many events are sold out immediately, but now that the pandemic is complicating the matter more people have more questions: Will non-Japanese spectators be allowed in the country? Will any spectators at all be allowed in venues? What sort of travel restrictions will apply? Will there be quarantines?
For residents of Japan, the matter may be simpler. The local organizers say that refunds “will be carried out,” but no sooner than this fall. 
For purchasers outside of Japan, things become more difficult. Those tickets are handled by authorized ticket resellers “appointed by the Olympic committees,” and they can charge a 20 percent handling fee for tickets as well as set their own exchange rates. As for refunds, each reseller has their own conditions and the “force majeure” clause in the fine print seems broad enough to cover the pandemic, according to one New York lawyer who spoke to AP. 
The problem, of course, is that the resellers, who are also selling hotel package deals, could lose a great deal of money, so there may a problem with getting complete refunds in the long run. In any event, one trader in Seattle advises potential fans to not buy tickets from anyone for the time being. Postponement is one thing, since resellers may think they can sell refunded tickets down the line, but if the Games are cancelled outright, there’s a good possibility that resellers won’t have enough money to repay all ticket holders. One reseller, CoSport, had a deadline for refunds that has already passed. 
AP talked to a number of ticketholders who seem confident that the Games will take place and if they don’t, then they expect to get their money back.