Planning to head over to Japan for the Summer Olympics?
Not gonna happen unless you’re an athlete who is competing in the Games, organizers said this weekend.
Spectators from overseas are barred from attending the world’s largest sporting event, which begins July 23 after a one-year delay due to the pandemic.
But the Tokyo Games are on, and it’s a relatively unpopular decision – nearly 80% of Japanese in some polls believe the Games should not be held this summer.
Health and safety protocols to protect participants and local residents will undoubtedly mute the atmosphere to some degree, but the president of the Tokyo committee, Seiko Hashimoto, said Saturday that the lack of international spectators would not spoil the Games.
“The Tokyo 2020 Games will be completely different from the past, but the essence remains the same,” Ms. Hashimoto said. “Athletes will put everything on the line and inspire people with their outstanding performances.”
Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, has encouraged national organizing committees to secure vaccines for athletes. In early March, he said China had offered to provide vaccinations for participants who need one.
In Japan, where the vaccine rollout has been relatively slow, the population will not be close to fully vaccinated by the time the Games start.
Officials are expected to meet again in April to discuss how many spectators would be allowed into Olympic venues.
One massive side effect: The organizing committees must navigate the process of offering refunds for ticket buyers. Overseas buyers purchased 600,000 tickets to Olympic events.
For now, it’s full steam ahead.
Officials plan to kick off the countdown to the Games on Thursday with the torch relay, starting in Fukushima.
And the number of spectators will be limited.