According to a report by Kyodo News Agency, Japan has decided to stage the upcoming Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics without overseas spectators due to public concern about COVID-19. The report also mentioned that the opening ceremony of the torch relay on March 25 would happen without spectators.
Quoting two unnamed government officials, Kyodo News stated, “The organising committee has decided it is essential to hold the ceremony in the northeastern prefecture of Fukushima behind closed doors, only permitting participants and invitees to take part in the event, to avoid large crowds forming amid the pandemic.”
Earlier, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga had said that the decision on spectators would be made by the end of March. Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto also said that she wants a decision made regarding overseas spectators before the start of the torch relay. With this report, it seems like the government has decided against allowing fans from abroad given public concern about the coronavirus and the detection of variants in many countries.
According to a poll by Yomiuri newspaper, most citizens of Japan are not in favour of international visitors attending the Games due to fears that a large influx could cause a resurgence of infections. The survey showed 77% of respondents were against allowing foreign fans to attend, and 18% were in favour. Regarding allowing an audience in the venues, 45% were shown to be in favour.
Not allowing both overseas and local spectators can a problem for the organizing committee. Figures released in December had projected ticket sales would contribute $800 million for the committee, which is around 12% of its budget. Since local ticket sales typically account for 70-80% of ticket sales, it is possible that the committee will try to bring the local crowd to games.
Coronavirus infection numbers have been relatively low in Japan compared to many other countries. The Asian country has recorded more than 441,200 cases since the start of the pandemic and more than 8,300 deaths. However, the third wave of the pandemic has sent Tokyo into a state of emergency. This has further raised questions about the games after being postponed by 12 months due to the pandemic. The rescheduled Olympics are set to begin in July this year.