Photo/Illutration Fans at the K-1 World GP event are asked to write their names, addresses and phone numbers on their ticket stubs at the entrance area of the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama on March 22. (Shin Kasahara)

SAITAMA—K-1 organizers defied government requests and held a martial arts event here on March 22, insisting they took adequate measures to protect the 6,500 people in attendance from novel coronavirus infections.

“It is regrettable, although we asked them several times for cooperation,” Saitama Governor Motohiro Ono said in a statement after the K-1 World GP event was held at the Saitama Super Arena.

The Saitama prefectural government owns the facility.

A central government expert panel on March 19 called on organizers of large-scale events to exercise caution, including canceling plans, to prevent the spread of the virus.

Yasutoshi Nishimura, state minister for economic revitalization, asked Ono to urge the organizer to refrain from holding the event, prefectural government officials said.

But the show went on.

Organizers said they fully implemented preventive measures against the virus, such as handing out surgical face masks for all spectators, providing thermometers to let them take their temperatures at the entrance, and keeping doors open to improve ventilation.

Takumi Nakamura, producer of the K-1 event, also said the fans were obliged to submit their names, addresses and phone numbers on their ticket stubs so that the organizers could trace the routes of possible infections.

Ticket refunds were not provided for those who did not want to attend, according to the organizers.

One person in attendance said repeated announcements instructed spectators to wear their face masks, but some fans removed them in the excitement of the fights.

Koji Wada, a professor at the International University of Health and Welfare who specializes in public health issues, said the organizers will face harsh criticism if the event has caused an infection cluster.

“Business operators should seriously consider the risks of group infections first,” Wada said.

(This article was written by Shin Kasahara and Yoko Hasegawa.)