International Spectators Banned from Tokyo Olympics Due to COVID-19

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 20, 2021

FILE - In this April 25, 2016, file photo, official logos of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, left, and the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games are displayed by the Tokyo Organizing Committee, in Tokyo. Tokyo Olympic organizers said Monday, Sept. 30, 2019 they are investigating the fraudulent purchase of 6,900 tickets worth 180 million yen ($1.67 million) that were obtained in an online lottery for Japan residents. Organizers said they were in the process of voiding the tickets but did not suggest who was involved. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi, File)
Shizuo Kambayashi/Associated Press

The International Olympic Committee and the Tokyo Olympics Organizing Committee announced Saturday that fans from abroad won't be able to attend the 2021 Summer Games because of COVID-19 concerns.

Stephen Wade of the Associated Press reported the decision, which was made in coordination with the Japanese government and local officials in Tokyo, comes after 600,000 fans from outside Japan purchased tickets for the Olympics.

"So the fact that spectators are not able to attend the Games from abroad—that is very disappointing and it's regrettable," organizing committee President Seiko Hashimoto said. "It was an unavoidable decision."

IOC President Thomas Bach said it was a "difficult decision" but explained the effort to move forward with the Games amid the coronavirus pandemic "may need sacrifice from everybody."

Organizing committee CEO Toshiro Muto said it planned to refund the price of the tickets but said it wasn't responsible for any extra fees from third-party ticket sellers or money lost from other expenses such as plane tickets or hotel reservations, per Wade.

Muto added that some people from outside Japan may be allowed to enter the country in addition to the international athletes, but there will be strict guidelines leading up to the Olympics.

"If they are part of the operation of the Games, if they are somewhat involved in the operation, then there is still a possibility they may be able to enter into Japan," he said. "But solely as spectators for watching games—no, they will not be allowed to make an entry."

Organizers said an estimated 4.45 million tickets were sold to Japanese residents, but a final decision about capacity at venues during the Games won't be made until next month, according to the AP.

The Tokyo Olympics were originally scheduled to take place last summer before being postponed because of the pandemic. Multiple IOC and Japanese officials have confirmed the Games either have to move forward this summer or they'll be canceled altogether.

That would be a major financial blow for Japan, which has already spent an estimated $15.4 billion to prepare for the event.

For now, the Opening Ceremony is scheduled for July 23, with the Games running through Aug. 8. Although there are no plans for a second year-long postponement of the Olympics, it's unclear whether a more short-term delay would be possible amid the worldwide COVID-19 vaccination efforts.

The focus will then swiftly switch to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, which are set to open in February, just six months after the action in Tokyo wraps up.