TOKYO, March 9: Japan has decided to stage this summer’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics without overseas spectators due to concern among the Japanese public about COVID-19, Kyodo news agency said on Tuesday, citing officials with knowledge of the matter.
The Olympics, postponed by a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, are scheduled for July 23 to Aug. 8 and the Paralympics from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5.
Kyodo said the government had concluded that welcoming fans from abroad would not be possible given public concern about the coronavirus and the detection of more contagious variants in many countries, Kyodo cited the officials as saying.
The opening ceremony of the torch relay would also be held without spectators, Kyodo said.
“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,” Kyodo said, quoting the officials.
Representatives of Tokyo 2020 were not immediately available for comment.
Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto had said she wanted a decision on whether to let in overseas spectators before the start of the torch relay on March 25.
“We would really like people from around the world to come to a full stadium, but unless we are prepared to accept them and the medical situation in Japan is perfect, it will cause a great deal of trouble also to visitors from overseas,” Kyodo quoted Hashimoto as telling reporters last week.
Most Japanese people do not want international visitors to attend the Games amid fears that a large influx of visitors could spark a resurgence of infections, a Yomiuri newspaper poll showed.
The survey showed 77% of respondents were against allowing foreign fans to attend, versus 18% in favour. (Reuters)