No spectators will be permitted at Olympic venues in Tokyo and the three surrounding prefectures of Saitama, Chiba, and Kanagawa, according to Japan’s minister for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.
On Thursday, Marukawa Tamayo spoke to reporters following a five-party meeting between the Japanese government, the games’ organizing committee, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, and the International Olympic and Paralympic Committees.
Marukawa stated that the decision comes after the Japanese government declared a coronavirus state of emergency in Tokyo earlier in the day.
The state of emergency will go into effect on Monday and will last until the end of the Olympics on August 22.
For the same period, the government also decided to extend targeted anti-infection measures to the three surrounding prefectures.
The minister stated that spectator numbers at Olympic venues in the prefectures of Miyagi, Fukushima, and Shizuoka will be limited to 10,000 or 50% of seating capacity, whichever is lower. She stated that this is in accordance with the agreement reached at a June 21 five-party meeting.
Marukawa stated that an Olympic venue in Ibaraki Prefecture will only accept schoolchildren who are given preferential seating.
She went on to say that more discussions will take place about what to do about spectators at Olympic venues in Hokkaido Prefecture.
Olympic organizers say there will be no spectators cheering on the world’s best athletes when they compete in Tokyo-area venues in just two weeks. The news was met with a mixture of disappointment and comprehension.
The Japanese government declared a new coronavirus state of emergency for the capital just before the organizers made their decision. It starts on Monday and lasts until the end of the Games.
Spectators were not permitted at events in Tokyo and the neighboring prefectures of Chiba, Saitama, and Kanagawa.
However, only a limited number of fans will be permitted in four prefectures, including Fukushima.
On Thursday, reporters questioned Tokyo’s governor about why the Games were being held at all, given the pandemic.
“People around the world have had differing opinions throughout the pandemic,” Koike Yuriko responded. I believe that the Olympics will provide an opportunity to change the situation by utilizing the power of sports to motivate people.”
Chiba Governor Kumagai Toshihito said he understands why the ban is necessary. His prefecture will host competitions in taekwondo, wrestling, fencing, and surfing.
“As a host prefecture, we will make our best efforts to gain public support by taking thorough preventive measures,” Kumagai said.
Many Japanese athletes had hoped to capitalize on the excitement of a packed stadium, but they now say they are aware that fans will be cheering from home.
“I am not in a position to comment on the decision,” says badminton player Momota Kento, “but I will do everything I can to live up to the responsibilities that have been entrusted to me.”
Tickets were in short supply. Fukumoto Reiko is one of the lucky fans who got tickets to the women’s soccer final. She won’t be able to use them any longer. Fukumoto expressed her dissatisfaction, saying, “No one did anything wrong.” All I can do is express my condolences for the situation.”
In the meantime, the torch relay has begun in Tokyo. However, the Olympic flame will not travel on the majority of the routes. Runners taking part in the ceremonial event light the flame in the absence of spectators.