Tokyo Olympics announces ban on spectators amid COVID emergency

·Freelance Writer
·2-min read
Spectators have been banned from the Tokyo Olympics
Spectators have been banned from the Tokyo Olympics

All spectators have been banned from attending Olympic events in Tokyo after the Japanese government declared a state of emergency over rising COVID infections.

The decision, announced by Olympic officials on Thursday afternoon, means that athletes will compete without the roar of the crowd spurring them on.

It was "regrettable" that the Games were going to be held in a limited format, Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto told a briefing, according to the Reuters news agency, adding her apologies to those who had bought tickets.

Overseas visitors had already been barred from attending the delayed Games but It had been hoped that limited numbers of Japanese spectators would still be able to attend.

Games organisers last month put in place plans to allow venues to be 50% full, up to a maximum of 10,000 people.

(L-R) Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike, Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto and International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach attend the five-party meeting in Tokyo on July 8, 2021. (Photo by Behrouz MEHRI / POOL / AFP) (Photo by BEHROUZ MEHRI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike, Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto and IOC president Thomas Bach attend the five-party meeting in Tokyo. (Getty)

However, after a steady rise of COVID cases in Japan, a state of emergency was declared in Tokyo that is set to remain in place until 22 August – a fortnight after the Games finish.

Figures show that there was a further 2,180 COVID cases reported in Japan on Wednesday – nearly 500 more than the previous day.

Watch: What 'hard quarantine' looks like at Tokyo 2020

“We must take stronger steps to prevent another nationwide outbreak, also considering the impact of coronavirus variants,” Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga said in quotes reported by Kyodo News.

State of emergency rules regarding attendances are set at regional level, but the national government advice is that events with spectators should run no later than 9pm, which had already put a major question mark on whether fans would be allowed to attend any night sessions in Tokyo.

Tokyo 2020 chief executive Toshiro Muto has stated previously that dignitaries and VIPs would not be counted within capacity limits and would instead be classed as organisers, so may still be able to attend even if the general public cannot.

Children attending Olympic events as part of a schools programme were also exempt from the capacity caps, Muto has said.

TOKYO, JAPAN - JULY 08: Security guards man an entrance to the Olympic Stadium on July 8, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. Japans Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga, has announced a fourth state of emergency for Tokyo which will run throughout the Olympic Games and remain in place until August 22nd. The countrys capital has seen an increase in coronavirus cases with 920 infections registered yesterday, up from 714 last week and the highest figure since May 13th. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
Security guards man an entrance to the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, Japan. (Getty)

Japan’s top coronavirus advisor, Dr Shigeru Omi, had recommended to Games organisers that the best approach was to stage the event behind closed doors.

The country has given out over 52 million doses of the COVID vaccine but the figure represents just a fifth of the population, putting its rollout some way behind other developed countries.

The Games officially begin on 23 July, with the closing ceremony taking place on 8 August.

Watch: Japan PM Suga declares Tokyo state of emergency

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