The Olympics Has Banned Spectators As Tokyo Grapples With A Covid Surge

Organizers reversed their decision to have domestic crowds after Japan announced a coronavirus state of emergency in the capital.

Stanislav Kogiku/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Ariake Urban Sports Park construction site in Tokyo.

The Tokyo Olympics will have no spectators as the city grapples with a surge of coronavirus cases, organizers announced Thursday.

While international fans were already barred from attending the games, which run from July 23 to Aug. 8, organizers had decided in June to allow domestic spectators, despite ongoing concerns that it could become a potential superspreader event.

But they reversed their decision Thursday after Japan declared a state of emergency in Tokyo, following a rise in COVID-19 cases in the area and a vaccine supply shortage in the country.

"It is regrettable that we are delivering the Games in a very limited format, facing the spread of coronavirus infections," said Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto after organizers met with government officials and Olympic and Paralympic representatives, Reuters reported.

"I am sorry to those who purchased tickets and everyone in local areas," Hashimoto said.

While no spectators will be allowed into any of the Tokyo venues for the Olympic Games, organizers said that they will decide specific measures in consultation with local officials for areas outside the capital.

Earlier on Thursday, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said that it was essential to implement countermeasures to prevent the wave of infections in Tokyo from spreading to the rest of the country.

The state of emergency in Tokyo, which will run until Aug. 22, has been implemented to stop the flow of people into the city amid the rising number of COVID-19 cases fueled by the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant, officials said.

Serving alcoholic beverages at restaurants will also be banned during the state of emergency, Suga said.

Tokyo reported 896 new cases on Thursday, with two deaths and 1,782 hospitalizations. Cases nationwide have risen approximately 17% in the last two weeks.

Some cities in Japan have been forced to cancel vaccination shots for residents after a critical shortage of supply in the country, which has only fully vaccinated around 15% of its population.

Kobe is canceling *first* shots 😣 https://t.co/PRjKcW1s9Y

Twitter: @HirokoTabuchi

The decision to bar spectators is yet another setback to the Tokyo Olympic Games, which have already been delayed by a year due to the pandemic, leading to massive budget costs.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday that they were "still assessing the feasibility" for First Lady Jill Biden to attend the sporting event. President Joe Biden will be skipping the Olympics, the Psaki said last week.


FINCEN FILES

THE INVESTIGATION THAT CHANGED THE BANKING INDUSTRY

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.

READ NOW