TOKYO – Overseas spectators are not allowed to attend the Summer Olympics in Japan, organizers said on Saturday. They give a huge concession to the reality of Covid-19, even though they have estimated plans to hold the largest sporting event in the world.
The Tokyo Games, which start in July, were originally planned for 2020, but were delayed by a year due to the pandemic. The organizing committee in Tokyo has tried to develop security protocols to protect participants and locals from the virus. Concerns have been high in Japan, with large majorities saying in the polls that the Games should not be held this summer.
The decision, which the organizers of Tokyo jointly took with the International Olympic Committee, the International Paralympic Committee and the national and local governments in Japan, was predicted in the Japanese media for weeks.
IOC president Thomas Bach has urged national organizing committees to secure vaccines for athletes, and he announced this month that China has offered to offer vaccinations to participants who need one before the Games.
But not all local spectators have the chance to be vaccinated before the Olympics open on July 23. In Japan, where the vaccine is relatively slow, the population will not be vaccinated near the time the Games start.
The organizing committees now have the enormous headache of arranging refunds for ticket buyers. Tokyo organizers said 7.8 million tickets would be available for the Games. About 10 to 20 percent of Olympic tickets usually go to international spectators.
Japanese fans may pick up some of the relaxation. Local demand for tickets exceeded supply at least before the pandemic.
The coronavirus had a relatively subdued effect on Japan, which had far fewer cases and deaths than the United States and Western Europe. The country has reported just over 8,700 deaths in Covid-19 since the pandemic began.
Japan declared a widespread state of emergency in early January following an increase in infections. Since then, most areas have lifted the declaration. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced this week that it would be terminated in Tokyo.
As part of its efforts to stop the spread of new, more contagious variants of Covid-19, Japan has also banned all new entry into the country from abroad since the end of December.
However, these measures have been lifted for Olympic athletes and some of their surroundings. The decision was controversial: foreign students and workers still could not enter the country, and the foreign ministry gave no clear indication as to when it might change.
Excluding foreign spectators, it is unlikely to allay the public’s concern about the Games, as thousands of athletes, coaches, officials and journalists will continue to attend the event. Nearly 80 percent of the public wants to postpone or cancel the Olympics completely, according to some polls.
Regardless of the opposition, officials plan to officially begin the countdown to the Games on Thursday with the torch relay, which begins in Fukushima. As with the events this summer, the number of spectators will be limited.
International ticket holders will now have to seek the process of getting refunds. Everen Brown, 60, a Salt Lake City photographer and super-fan who attended 15 Olympics, bought him and his nephew about $ 8,600 for the Tokyo Games.
They looked forward to seeing beach volleyball, archery, fencing, diving and a basketball game for men and had tickets for the closing ceremony. According to the provisions of CoSport, the broker who supports ticket sales for US fans, customers will not be reimbursed for some fees – which Mr. According to him, Brown would cost about $ 1200 – and the repayment could take time.
“Since we are banned, it is only right to heal everyone and repay all the money paid,” he said. Brown said before the official announcement was made. What’s more, he said, after waiting a whole year, he quickly wanted his repayment. “It will be really painful to watch it at home on TV and know they have the money, and not know when you are going to get it back.”