TOKYO (NEWS 1130) – The Tokyo Olympics are going to be held during a state of emergency, and fans will not be allowed to spectate in person, as COVID-19 concerns continue to rise in Japan’s capital.
The country’s prime minister made the declaration Thursday, just hours before the International Olympic Committee and Japanese organizers announced the ban on fans.
Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa told Japanese news agency Kyodo the Summer Games would be a made-for-TV event. Fans from aboard were banned months ago.
The state of emergency will go into effect on Monday and last through Aug. 22, well past the closing of the Olympics, which open on July 23 and end Aug. 8. The Paralympics do not begin until Aug. 24.
“Taking into consideration the impact of the delta strain, and in order to prevent the resurgence of infections from spreading across the country, we need to step up virus prevention measures,” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said, citing the COVID-19 variant that has created new waves of the virus in many countries around the world.
Suga hinted that no fans would be allowed when he announced the state of emergency Thursday.
“I have already said I won’t hesitate to have no spectators,” Japan’s prime minister said.
The main focus of the emergency is a request for bars, restaurants, and karaoke parlors serving alcohol to close. A ban on serving alcohol is a key step to tone down Olympic-related festivities and keep people from drinking and partying. Tokyo residents are expected to face stay-home requests and watch the games on TV from home.
The emergency declaration made for a rude arrival in Japan for IOC President Thomas Bach, who landed in the host city just hours before the new measures were announced. He is to spend three days in self-isolation at the five-star hotel that lodges IOC members.
Citing multiple sources, Japan’s Asahi newspaper reported Tuesday only VIPs, sponsors, and others dignitaries will likely be allowed in the National Stadium for the opening ceremony, and that other large venues will likely not have any fans.
Previously, organizers had said they would maybe allow venues to host up to 50 per cent capacity. However, recent resurgences in COVID-19 have forced them to reevaluate.
Japan continues to grapple with cases and hospitalizations, as well as a slow vaccine rollout.
Only around 15 per cent of Japanese have been fully vaccinated so far.
About 11,000 Olympic athletes and 4,400 Paralympians are expected to enter Japan, along with tens of thousands of coaches, administrators, broadcasters, and media. According to the IOC, more than 80 per cent of people who will be living in the Olympic Village will be vaccinated.
Concerns have been raised about the Olympics being held while the pandemic is ongoing, with Tokyo’s medical community even calling for the event to be cancelled.
Many athletes, some Canadian, have also cited their concerns about travelling to Japan and taking part in sporting events.