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International spectators would be prohibited from attending the Tokyo Olympics.

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International spectators would be prohibited from attending the Tokyo Olympics.
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International spectators would be prohibited from attending the Tokyo Olympics.

International spectators would be prohibited from attending the Tokyo Olympics.

 

After numerous unsourced news stories and rumors, it’s finally official: international spectators will be banned from the postponed Tokyo Olympics when they begin in four months.

The International Olympic Committee, the Japanese government, the Tokyo government, the International Paralympic Committee, and local organizers met online on Saturday to make the decision.

During a pandemic, officials said the possibility of admitting ticket holders from other countries was too high. The Japanese public has also been hostile to international fans. According to some polls, up to 80% of people oppose keeping the Olympics, and a comparable number oppose fans from other countries participating.

COVID-19 is responsible for around 8,800 deaths in Japan, which has a stronger grip on the virus than most other nations.

The Tokyo organizing committee said in a statement that “in order to provide clarification to ticket holders living overseas and to encourage them to change their travel plans at this point, the parties on the Japanese side have come to the conclusion that they will not be able to enter Japan during the Olympic and Paralympic Games,”

Fans from outside Japan bought 600,000 tickets, according to organizers. They’ve offered refunds, but the decision will be made by so-called Approved Ticket Resellers who manage sales outside of Japan. Fees of up to 20% of the ticket price are charged by these dealers. It’s unclear whether or not the payments will be refunded.

The organizing committee’s CEO, Toshiro Muto, claimed that the committee was not responsible for money spent on flights or hotel reservations. He said that there was no “contract deal with Tokyo” involved.

Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the organizing committee and a seven-time Olympian (she won bronze in speedskating in 1992), said there was pressure to make a decision earlier rather than later. She did say, however, that fans may now make plans. She expressed her dissatisfaction with the transfer as well.

“So the fact that fans from other countries are unable to attend the games is rather upsetting and regrettable,” she said. “It was a foregone conclusion.”

It was a “difficult call,” according to IOC President Thomas Bach.

“We have to make choices that will require someone to sacrifice,” he said.

Fans who may have purchased tickets from deep-pocketed supporters tended to be barred from attending, according to Muto.

“If they are a part of the games activity, if they are very interested in the operation, there is always a chance they will be able to reach Japan,” Muto said. “However, they will not be able to participate exclusively as spectators for the purpose of watching games.”

Japan carries the financial strain of missed ticket sales. Ticket sales were expected to bring in $800 million in the privately funded budget, according to the local organizing committee’s budget. Any budget deficit would have to be absorbed by Japanese government agencies.

“Ticketing income will decrease,” Muto predicted. “At this point, that is quite clear.”

Muto also pointed at more cuts for spectators on the outskirts of the Games. He also said that volunteers from other countries would be treated “in the same way,” but that more information would be provided later.

“However, in terms of other people involved with the games, or if we can hold the same number — we may have to reduce the number. This is the general consensus. He said, “That is the premise.”

The Olympics would cost Japan a total of $15.4 billion to plan. According to many government audits, the true cost could be twice as much. Except for $6.7 billion, all of the funding comes from the government, and according to a University of Oxford report, these are the most costly Olympics ever.

Residents of Japan purchased approximately 4.45 million tickets. Organizers are scheduled to reveal the potential of venues next month, which will now be filled solely by locals.

The ban on foreign fans comes just days before the Olympic torch relay begins in Fukushima Prefecture in northeastern Japan on Thursday. It will last 121 days, crisscrossing Japan with 10,000 athletes, and will culminate on July 23 at the National Stadium in Tokyo with an opening ceremony.

The relay will serve as a warm-up for the upcoming Olympics and Paralympics, which will draw 15,400 competitors to Japan. They’ll be checked before they leave home, upon arrival in Japan, and on a regular basis when staying in a safe “bubble” in the Athletes Village along Tokyo Bay, or at venues and training facilities.

Although athletes will not be needed to be vaccinated in order to enter Japan, many will.

Bach and others were reminded about earthquake-prone northeastern Japan — and Japan in general — during Saturday’s meeting.

As Bach and others gave their opening remarks before the virtual conference, a powerful earthquake struck Tokyo, triggering a tsunami warning. The earthquake was rated at 7.0 by the US Geological Survey, and it occurred in northeastern Japan, which was devastated by a massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011. About 18,000 people were killed in the disaster ten years ago.

“I assume the screen is trembling. Tamayo Marukawa, Japan’s Olympic minister, said, “Have you noticed the screen is shaking?” as she gave her presentation from Tokyo, talking remotely to Bach on a screen in Switzerland. “Right now, we’re in the middle of an earthquake.”

There were no immediate reports of injury, according to officials.

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