Only a select number of people will get to see the Olympics live after Japan officially banned fans from all Tokyo-area venues.
The fan-free announcement came Thursday, hours after Japan prime minister Yoshihide Suga declared Tokyo would operate under a state of emergency from July 12 through Aug. 22 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“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,” Suga said when declaring the state of emergency that asks all bars, restaurants and karaoke parlors serving alcohol to close.
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With that declaration in mind, Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike said Thursday that fans won’t be welcome at events, which are scheduled to run from July 23 through Aug. 8.
“Many people were looking forward to watching the games at the venues, but I would like everyone to fully enjoy watching the games on TV at home,” Koike said, according to The Associated Press. “It’s gut-wrenching because many people looked forward to watching at the venues.”
The fan ban is in place in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba, while several events in outlying areas — such as baseball in Fukushima — are moving forward with a limited number of fans. Some dignitaries, sponsors and officials will reportedly be allowed to attend the July 23 opening ceremony at National Stadium — and potentially some other events.
“We had no choice but to arrive at the no-spectator decision,” organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto said. “We postponed and postponed, one after another. I have done some soul-searching about that.”
Prior to Thursday, Tokyo planned to allow 10,000 local fans into Olympic venues, with each indoor and outdoor venue holding 50 percent of its capacity. Tokyo reported 896 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, the 19th straight day that cases have topped the mark set seven days prior.
A pair of Ugandan Olympic team members tested positive upon arrival in Japan, with one testing positive on June 19 at Narita International Airport and another testing positive on June 22 in Osaka.
The AP reported that Japan is officially spending $15.4 billion on the Olympics, which were postponed from last summer due to COVID-19. All but $6.7 billion is public money.
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