Olympics

Tokyo Olympics organisers bar overseas fans to stop spread of coronavirus

Organisers said overseas ticket holders would not be allowed to attend the Tokyo Olympics because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Organisers said overseas ticket holders would not be allowed to attend the Tokyo Olympics because of the coronavirus pandemic. REUTERS - ISSEI KATO

Organisers of the Tokyo Olympics on Saturday confirmed overseas spectators will not be permitted to attend the event as part of the Japanese government’s attempts to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Speculation had been rife that fans travelling from abroad would not be welcomed into the country for the games which are scheduled to start on 23 July.

Around 900,000 tickets for the Olympics and subsequent Paralympics will be refunded.

The announcement came after a meeting of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), International Paralympic Committee, Tokyo metropolitan government, the Tokyo 2020 organising committee and the Japanese government.

“The Covid-19 situation in Japan and many other countries around the world is still very challenging and a number of variant strains have emerged,” said a statement from all the groups which attended the meeting.

“Based on the present situation of the pandemic, it is highly unlikely that entry into Japan will be guaranteed this summer for people from overseas.”

Toll

Nearly 9,000 people have died from the disease in Japan since January 2020. The games - originally scheduled between 24 July and 9 August 2020 - were postponed as the first wave of the illness took hold.

The organisers said they had made the declaration on Saturday to give ticket holders time to rework their travel plans.

“This conclusion will further contribute to ensure safe and secure Games for all participants and the Japanese public,” the joint statement added.

Regret

Thomas Bach, the IOC president, said: “We share the disappointment of all enthusiastic Olympic fans from around the world, and of course the families and friends of the athletes who were planning to come to the games.

“For this I am truly sorry. We know that this is a great sacrifice for everybody. We have said from the very beginning of this pandemic that it will require sacrifices.

“But we have also said that the first principle is safety. Every decision has to respect the principle of safety first.”

The move could reduce doubts and suspicion towards the games. Opinion polls have revealed high levels of local hostility towards the hosting of the games.

Bach has insisted the 32nd Olympic Games will not be postponed again.

“I know that our Japanese partners and friends did not reach this conclusion lightly,” he added.

"Together with them, the IOC’s top priority was, is and remains to organise safe Olympic and Paralympic Games for everyone.”

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