Tokyo Olympics: Fans dealt devastating blow after city declares state of emergency

By Lars Nicolaysen, dpa

Tokyo, Japan - The Tokyo Olympics will be held without fans after a coronavirus state of emergency covering the period of the Games was declared in the city, local organizers said after discussions with the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Local organizers and the International Olympic committee responded to the stare of emergency declared in Tokyo.
Local organizers and the International Olympic committee responded to the stare of emergency declared in Tokyo.  © IMAGO / Sven Simon

Japan had long banned foreign fans but hoped to allow venues to be filled up to 50% of capacity with up to 10,000 domestic spectators.

"We had no other choice," said local organizing chief Seiko Hashimoto.

IOC president Thomas Bach arrived in Japan on Thursday but shortly after the Japanese government of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced the measure in response to increasing numbers of infections.

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Public support for the Olympics is low in Japan as many people fear the Games delayed from last year owing to the pandemic could become a "superspreader" event, and health experts have also raised concerns.

“We must take stronger steps to prevent another nationwide outbreak, also considering the impact of coronavirus variants,” Kyodo News quoted Suga as saying.

The fourth state of emergency around Tokyo and neighboring regions will be in effect from Monday, replacing a current and less strict quasi state of emergency. It is to run until August 22 provisionally, the government said.

Olympic officials are excepeted from the ban

The Olympics are scheduled for July 23-August 8, with the Paralympics following from August 24.
The Olympics are scheduled for July 23-August 8, with the Paralympics following from August 24.  © IMAGO / AFLO

The Olympics are scheduled for July 23-August 8, with the Paralympics following from August 24.

The state of emergency is not a lockdown with hard curfews as in other countries.

While citizens are called upon to stay at home if possible, restaurants are open but not allowed to serve alcohol, offer karaoke and have to close earlier than normal in the evening.

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The Japanese have been asked to rather enjoy the Olympics from home, and also to travel less during the upcoming summer holidays.

Olympic and federation officials, classed as organizers, can still attend venues even if the general public can't, but excluding them tallies with the advice of Japan’s top coronavirus advisor, Dr Shigeru Omi.

Tokyo authorities on Thursday reported 896 new cases, the 19th day in a row that the figure was higher than that from the previous week.

Suga's government, Bach's IOC, and local organizers have however insisted the Games can go on amid a tight hygiene protocol for everyone involved.

Bach arrived at Haneda airport to oversee the final countdown. Reports said he went straight to his hotel and would observe a three-day quarantine.

There are various meetings in the run-up, including the IOC Session where Australia's Brisbane is set to be elected host of the 2032 Olympics.

Cover photo: IMAGO / Sven Simon

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