Just over a week ago we reported how a source close to the Tokyo Olympic Games Organizing Committee conveyed that the world’s biggest international sporting event would be held without foreign spectators. This option was being considered due to ongoing concerns regarding the coronavirus pandemic.
Reporting today from Tokyo, Kyodo News confirmed that the heads of the organizing bodies of the Olympics and Paralympics decided this morning that the Games will indeed be held sans spectators. Any overseas spectators who purchased tickets to this summer’s postponed Olympic Games will be refunded.
On the historic decision, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach stated, “We have to take decisions which may need sacrifice from everybody and we have to ask for understanding.”
As stated in our previous report, the Japanese government had essentially already concluded that allowing overseas spectators for the Olympics and Paralympics was not feasible, given ‘fears that foreigners could bring more contagious variants detected in many countries.’
Of note, the number of coronavirus cases reported among Japan’s population of over 126 million is 454,000 (.36%), resulting in 8,783 deaths.
Kyodo News is also reporting today that Japanese organizers ‘have determined that people living overseas will not be allowed to volunteer at the Games as part of precautions against the spread of the COVID-19 disease.’
In January of this year were reported how the Japanese government was reportedly considering three options for a springtime decision — not imposing a limit on spectators, placing a ceiling of 50 percent of the venues’ capacity or holding events behind closed doors.
At the time, Katsuhiro Miyamoto, an honorary professor at Kansai University, produced a report estimating the economic loss which would incur if the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics were to be held without spectators.
He estimated that holding the Tokyo Games behind closed doors would cause national economic damage of up to ¥2.4 trillion (nearly $23 billion USD).
In response to this morning’s official announcement, United States Olympics & Paralympics Committee (USOPC) CEO Sarah Hirshland published the following letter:
Dear Team USA Athletes and Community –
Earlier today we were informed by the Tokyo Organizing Committee, IOC and IPC that foreign spectators will not be allowed into Japan during the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 this summer.
This is news that was long rumored, but news we hoped would never come. It was also a decision we know the Games organizers in Japan hoped they would never have to make.
We, like you, are so disappointed, and yet we acknowledge the complex nature of event hosting in the current, COVID-impacted global environment, and the incredible effort being put forth to safely host the Games for all the world’s athletes. Over the past year, we have witnessed event hosts in the U.S. and around the world forced to make similar, and very hard, decisions.
The grief, frustration and disappointment being felt by all whose plans have been ruined is understandable. It is truly sad that the families, friends and fans from around the world, who help make the Games a global celebration, will not be able to attend. We can only try to imagine the weight of the responsibility felt by the hosts – along with the IOC and IPC – to offer the participants and the host community the safest possible environment, and we acknowledge that safety has to be the priority.
We recognize you will have questions, and our next step is to engage with the IOC, IPC, TOCOG and ANOC to better understand what this decision means for all of us. As we wait for further clarification and additional information, please know we will continue to advocate for opportunities for American fans to experience the Games in person, and will share additional updates as soon as we have them.
In lieu of opportunities to attend the Games in person, we hope all who love Team USA will join us in celebrating the amazing dedication and skill of America’s Olympic and Paralympic athletes – and make sure they know that, even from afar, they have the support of a proud nation. We look forward to creating new ways to connect our community and country with Team USA while they are in competing in Japan.
We share in this difficult news together, but we know that the strength and unity of Team USA will ensure the Tokyo Games are a celebration of the tremendous human spirit that drives you every day.