Japan to ban foreign spectators from Tokyo Olympics

TOKYO – Organizers of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics on Saturday agreed to hold the games without spectators abroad in an effort to prevent COVID-19 infections.

The decision was made a day before Japan lifted a state of emergency in the Tokyo area, in an online meeting of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the Japanese government and the international Olympic and Paralympic committees.

Organizers stressed the decision made because they respect the safety of people in the host country. “Our first priority is … the safety of all participants in the Olympics and of course the people of Japan … That means we have to make difficult decisions that may require sacrifice from everyone, “IOC president Thomas Bach told reporters on Saturday.

Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto stressed that the decision on foreign audiences must come as soon as possible. “As for the entry measures at the time of July, we can wait until the very last minute to make a decision but for the viewers for the 2020 games, they need accommodations, flights and so on So we decided that we would cause them a lot of inconvenience, “Hashimoto said.

Tokyo organizers have sold around 900,000 tickets abroad and 3.6 million in Japan to date. In the latest budget report, Tokyo 2020 estimated that its ticket revenue would be 90 billion yen ($ 830 million). Overseas ticket sales typically accounted for at least 10% of total ticket sales in past games, so 10 billion yen of revenue is expected to be lost due to decision.

Japan’s borders have been closed to unscrupulous foreigners since January 7, when Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared a second state of emergency after a winter spike of COVID-19 infections. While Japan has created a unique entry route for athletes, who only need International Olympic Committee credit to enter the host country, entrants are entering tourist visas. is another matter.

It is unclear whether organizers can limit the number of spectators at the venue. Japan is currently limiting the number of spectators to 5,000 at major events – less than 10% of Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium’s 68,000-capacity capacity.

Organizers said the final decision on domestic observers will come in April. If restrictions are imposed, Tokyo 2020 revenues will be further reduced. This could mean additional investment of taxpayer funding if the Tokyo Metropolitan Government – or the national government, if necessary – needs to cover the organizing committee ‘s budget deficit.