Fans banned at Tokyo Olympics after officials declare state of emergency

Fans were banned from the Tokyo Olympics set to open in just two weeks after a state of emergency was declared on Thursday, officials told the Japanese news agency Kyodo.

The ban was announced by the International Olympic Committee and Japanese organizers, reducing the games to a made-for-TV event. Fans from abroad were banned months ago from attending the Olympics.

Earlier Thursday, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced a state of emergency for the capital due to rising COVID-19 infections. He said it would go into effect on Monday and last through Aug. 22. This means the Olympics, opening on July 23 and running through Aug. 8, will be held entirely under emergency measures. The Paralympics open on Aug. 24.

Just two weeks ago, organizers and the IOC had decided to allow venues to be filled to 50% of capacity but crowds not to exceed 10,000. The new measures announced by Suga will clear venues around Tokyo — indoor and outdoor — of any fans at all.


Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga speaks during a press conference on a new coronavirus state of emergency stretching throughout the Tokyo Olympics, at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo on July 8, 2021. (Photo by NICOLAS DATICHE/PO

"Taking into consideration the impact of the delta strain, and in order to prevent the resurgence of infections from spreading across the country, we need to step up virus prevention measures," Suga said.

Suga, who had long favored fans, hinted at a no-fan Olympics in announcing the state of emergency.

"I have already said I won’t hesitate to have no spectators," he added.

The main focus of the emergency is a request for bars, restaurants and karaoke parlors serving alcohol to close. A ban on serving alcohol is a key step to tone down Olympic-related festivities and keep people from drinking and partying. Tokyo residents are expected to face stay-home requests and watch the games on TV from home.

About 11,000 Olympians and 4,400 Paralympians are expected to enter Japan, with tens of thousands of officials, judges, administrators, sponsors, broadcasters, and media also entering. The IOC says more than 80% of resident of the Olympic Village will be vaccinated.

Nationwide, Japan has had about 810,000 cases and nearly 14,900 deaths. Only 15% of Japanese are fully vaccinated, still low compared with 47.4% in the United States and almost 50% in Britain.

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