Japan has decided to host this summer’s Olympics in Tokyo and the Paralympics without foreign spectators due to public concern over Covid-19, local media reported on Tuesday and quoted officials with knowledge of the matter.
The Gaming Organization Committee in Tokyo 2020 said in response that a decision would be made at the end of March.
The Olympics, which have been postponed by one year due to the pandemic, are scheduled for July 23 to August 8 and the Paralympics from August 24 to September 5.
The Kyodo news agency said the Japanese government concluded that it would not be possible to welcome fans from abroad given the public’s concern about the coronavirus and the discovery of more contagious variants in many countries.
The opening ceremony for the torch relay would also be held without any spectators, Kyodo said.
“The organizing committee has decided that it is important to hold the ceremony in Fukushima’s northeastern prefecture behind closed doors, only allowing participants and invitees to attend the event, to avoid large crowds forming in the middle of the pandemic,” the news agency quoted senior officials as saying.
Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto has said she wants a decision to let in overseas spectators before the torch relay starts on March 25.
“Five parties – the IOC, the IPC (International Paralympic Committee), Tokyo 2020, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the national government – gathered for an online meeting last week,” the organizing committee said in response to the Kyodo report.
“The decision to allow spectators from abroad to participate in the Tokyo 2020 Games will be made at the end of March based on factors including the state of infections in Japan and other countries, possible epidemic prevention measures and scientific advice,” the committee added.
Asahi Shimbun said daily that the IOC had asked Japan to make exceptions for foreign guests linked to sponsors, and that the government was considering the request.
During the most recent Olympic Games, the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, local fans accounted for 80 percent of all ticket sales, with international fans buying 20 percent.
For the 2020 Olympics, approximately 900,000 tickets have reportedly been sold outside Japan.
While the number of coronavirus infections has been relatively low in Japan compared to the United States and many European countries, the country has been hit hard by the third wave of the pandemic and Tokyo is still in a state of emergency.
Japan has registered more than 441,200 cases of Covid-19 since the pandemic began, with more than 8,300 deaths.
A majority of Japanese do not want international visitors to participate in the games for fear that a large influx could lead to re-emergence of infections, a newspaper survey from Yomiuri shows.
The survey showed that 77 percent of respondents were against allowing foreign fans to participate, compared to 18 percent for.
About 48 percent said they were against allowing all spectators to the stadiums and 45 percent were in favor.
( Jowharwith REUTERS, AFP)