Foreign spectators will not be allowed into Japan to attend the delayed Olympic and Paralympic Games. The decision was taken on Saturday in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Organizing Committee took the decision as part of a five party meeting that also included the head of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, and Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike.
It said that it was taking the decision at this early stage in order to help fans adjust their travel plans.
“In order to give clarity to ticket holders living overseas and to enable them to adjust their travel plans at this stage, the parties on the Japanese side have come to the conclusion that they will not be able to enter into Japan at the time of the Olympic and Paralympic Games,” the Tokyo 2020 organizing body said in a statement. The IOC and IPC “fully respect and accept this conclusion,” the statement added.
Speaking later to reporters, Koike called the decision “very unfortunate.” But she also said that it was “unavoidable” because policy must favor the health of the Japanese population and that of the athletes.
The Olympic Games were postponed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Still called Tokyo 2020 games, they are now scheduled for July 23 to Aug. 8, 2021, with the Paralympics running from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5, 2021.
The Olympic torch relay is due to begin in five days from now in Fukushima Prefecture.
About one million tickets are reported to have been sold to fans from outside Japan, while 4.45 million tickets were sold to Japan residents.
There has been discussion of also barring entry into Japan of foreign volunteers. There was no official statement on this related matter, though local Japanese media quoted anonymous sources saying that these visitors would also be barred.
Japan has controlled the coronavirus outbreak better than many other large nations. It has recorded 455,000 cases of infection and 8,794 fatalities, according to figures from the Johns Hopkins University database. The country is nearing the end of a third wave of infections and the state of emergency in the Tokyo region is due to be canceled on Monday. But polls show that the Japanese public remains skeptical about whether the games should go ahead, and they are wary about foreign visitors.