Organizers of the Tokyo Olympics have agreed to hold the event without spectators under a Covid-19 state of emergency, Japan’s Olympics Minister Tamayo Marukawa said on Thursday.
It had already been decided that the Games would not welcome international fans.
The ban on spectators is the latest blow to the troubled Olympics, delayed by a year because of the pandemic and plagued by a series of setbacks, including massive budget overruns.
Tokyo reported 920 new infections on Wednesday. That compares with 714 last Wednesday and is the highest total since 1,010 were reported on 13 May. It announced 896 new cases on Thursday.
State of emergency announced throughout the Tokyo Olympics
“Taking into consideration the effect of coronavirus variants and the need to prevent infections from spreading to the rest of the nation again, we need to strengthen our countermeasures,” Suga said. “Given the situation, we will issue a state of emergency for Tokyo.”
The state of emergency in Tokyo will end after the 23 July 23 – 8 August event.
Medical experts in Japan welcomed a decision to hold the Tokyo Olympics without spectators under coronavirus restrictions but cautioned that the ban will not completely eliminate the risk of a rebound in Covid-19 cases.
Although the Tokyo 2020 organizers and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced a 10,000 person cap on spectators at this year’s sporting event, this decision has now been reversed.
Earlier in the week, Yoshihide Suga the Japanese Prime Minister, hinted that the Tokyo Olympics would go ahead without spectators.
“I have made clear that having no spectators is a possibility,” Suga said. “We will take steps as we prioritize the safety and security of the people.”
Following the end of state-of-emergency restrictions in multiple regions at the end of May, Covid infections have been on the rise in the island country.
Games proceeding despite concerns
Japan will proceed with the Tokyo 2020 Olympics despite concerns raised by Japanese health officials and others from around the world who worry about the outcome of such an enormous global event while the pandemic is still raging there.
The Games have been postponed once already in 2020 due to the pandemic.
“It’s not normal to have the Olympics in a situation like this,” said Shigeru Omi, Japan’s senior adviser on the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Omi did not say outright that the games should be cancelled, but strongly believes that they pose a risk of elevated infection rates in Japan.