Spectators banned from Tokyo Olympic venues after state of emergency declared

Olympic venues in Tokyo will not be able to admit spectators for this summer’s Games after the coronavirus pandemic forced the declaration of a new state of emergency in the Japanese capital, Tokyo 2020 organising committee president Seiko Hashimoto has said.

Organisers had hoped that Japanese residents would be able to attend the Games, and last month announced that venues could be 50 per cent full, up to a maximum of 10,000 people.

However, a rise in coronavirus infections has forced the Japanese government to reimpose more stringent measures from Monday until August 22, and organisers confirmed on Thursday that Games venues in the Tokyo prefecture would now not be allowed to admit spectators.

“This is a sorry message that we have to announce, but this was the only choice available to take,” Hashimoto said.

Tokyo 2020 chief executive Toshiro Muto confirmed that “stakeholders” such as IOC members, international federation executives and national Olympic committee executives would still be allowed to attend.

“These are not spectators, they have roles to play,” Muto said, before confirming that “key clients” such as sponsors would not be able to attend events where the general public were barred.

Muto said there would be a review of the medical provision for the Games in light of the decision on spectators.

Children involved in a schools programme had been exempt from initial capacity limits, but Muto confirmed that in prefectures where spectators were now not permitted it was “most appropriate” to suspend plans to let them in.

Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto, left, and Tokyo Olympics Minister Tamayo Marukawa make the announcement on Thursday
Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto, left, and Tokyo Olympics Minister Tamayo Marukawa made the announcement on Thursday (Behrouz Mehri/AP)

Asked what impact the move would have on the athletes, Hashimoto said: “They wanted a lot of people to watch their performances, but many of the Japanese public were worried about the Covid-19 situation, even with the solid countermeasures, because of the flow of people and because of various concerns.

“The anxiety is being expressed and a lot of people are opposed. Every person is entitled to have every different thought but overriding these differences, athletes will do their best.”

In venues located in areas where emergency measures are not in force, organisers said that the relevant local authorities would decide on spectator levels.

A decision on whether spectators for the Paralympic Games would be taken on July 16, a statement from the organisers said.

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The statement concluded: “All five parties deeply regret for the athletes and for the spectators that this measure had to be put in place.”

The decision goes beyond the recommended measures for professional sports attendance in areas under a state of emergency – 50 per cent capacity at venues up to 5,000 people, as long as events do not run past 9pm.

Muto explained why organisers had gone further, saying “clearly there is a difference” between the Olympics and other professional sports.

“Events are held simultaneously,” he said. “In the case of the Olympic Games, the degree of popularity and the size of the movement of people, it would be a larger scale of activity.”