The organisers of this summer’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics decided on Saturday that the games will be staged without overseas spectators due to the coronavirus pandemic, the games’ organising committee said.
The organisers came to the decision during a high-level remote meeting on Saturday, just five days before the 121-day Olympic torch relay starts in Fukushima Prefecture. The meeting was attended by International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, Seiko Hashimoto, president of the Tokyo Organising Committee, International Paralympic Committee chief Andrew Parsons, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike and Olympic minister Tamayo Marukawa. Overseas fans with event tickets will receive refunds.
The government had already concluded that welcoming overseas spectators for the global sporting event is not feasible, given that the threat from the virus is far from over and amid fears that foreign travelers could lead to the spread of more contagious variants, officials with knowledge of the planning said earlier.
The organisers of the games have also decided not to accept volunteers from abroad, officials familiar with the matter said Saturday.
About 10% of the roughly 80,000 games volunteers were foreign nationals, the organizing committee said before the games were pushed back one year ago. The government will consider ways to permit the entry of volunteers from abroad whose roles are difficult to be replaced by somebody living in Japan, such as those who are capable of speaking less common languages.
As for international spectators, Bach said during a news conference last week that Japan is responsible for making the call on whether or not to welcome foreign visitors during the games and that the IOC will “respect and accept this decision.”
In early March, the five bodies organising the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics agreed to settle the issue of spectators in two stages — deciding on what to do about those from abroad by the end of the month, then setting the maximum capacity for venues in April.
Before the pandemic forced the postponement of the Olympics in March last year, the organizing committee estimated that ticket sales would generate ¥90 billion. While the total number of tickets to be sold has not been disclosed, some officials have said it was projected to be over 9 million.
Despite the one-year delay, the government had initially hoped that having as many spectators as possible at the games and inbound visitors to the country would help revive its economy from a coronavirus-induced downturn.
The organising committee has sold about 4.45 million tickets through the domestic lottery but received refund requests for some 810,000 tickets last year. About 1 million tickets are believed to have already been sold abroad.