) — Following a state of emergency declared on Thursday, Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa told Japanese news
agency Kyodo that fans
would be barred from attending the pandemic-affected Tokyo Olympics
, which will begin in two weeks.
The International Olympic Committee
and Japanese organizers announced the ban, effectively reducing the games to a made-for-television event.
Fans from other countries were banned months ago, and the new measures announced by Japanese Prime Minister
Yoshihide Suga will rid Tokyo venues — indoor and outdoor — of all fans.
The emergency declaration made for an unwelcome arrival in Japan for IOC President
Thomas Bach, who arrived just hours before the new measures were announced and was scheduled to spend three days in self-isolation at the five-star hotel where IOC members stay.
Suga stated that the state of emergency would be declared on Monday and would last until August 22. This means that the Olympics
, which begin on July 23 and run through August 8, will be held entirely under emergency conditions, as will the Paralympics, which begin on August 24.
“Taking into account the delta
, and in order to prevent the resurgence of infections from spreading across the country,” Suga said.
In declaring the state of emergency, Suga, who has long favored fans, alluded to a no-fan Olympics.
“I've already stated that I will not hesitate to have no spectators,” he continued.
Just two weeks ago, organizers and the IOC permitted venues to be filled to 50% capacity but crowds not to exceed 10,000; however, the state of emergency has forced a late turnaround, which was always an option if infections worsened.
“We will have to consider the option of no spectators,” Marukawa said as he led the IOC and others into meetings to discuss a ban on fans.
The main focus of the emergency is a request for bars, restaurants
, and karaoke parlors serving alcohol to close, as a ban on serving alcohol is a critical step in reducing Olympic-related festivities and keeping people
from drinking and partying. Tokyo residents are expected to face stay-at-home requests and watch
the games on TV from home.
“A major issue is how to prevent people who are enjoying the Olympics from going out for drinks,” said Health
Minister Norihisa Tamura.
The current state of emergency expires on Sunday. Tokyo reported 896 new cases on Thursday, up from 673 a week earlier, marking the 19th consecutive day that cases have surpassed the seven-day previous high. New cases on Wednesday reached 920, the highest total since 1,010 were reported on May 13.
The opening ceremony at the $1.4 billion National Stadium, traditionally the most watched event during the Olympics, will be part of the no-fan atmosphere.
“It’s not too late; cancel or postpone it,” Yukio Edano, head of the Constitutional Democratic Party
of Japan, the largest opposition party to Suga’s LDP, said.
The rise in infections has also compelled the Tokyo city government to remove the Olympic torch relay from capital streets, allowing it to run only on remote islands off the Tokyo coast. It is unclear how the torch will enter the stadium for the opening ceremony.
“The infections are spreading, and everyone in this country needs to understand the gravity of the situation,” said Dr. Shigeru Omi, a top government medical adviser.
He urged authorities to take tough measures as soon as possible in the run-up to the Olympics, as summer vacations begin.
Omi has repeatedly called for a spectator ban and stated that holding the Olympics during a pandemic is “abnormal.”
Separately, a COVID-19
advisory panel convened by the government on Wednesday and expressed concern about the infections' ongoing resurgence.
“Two-thirds of the infections in the capital region are from Tokyo, and we are concerned about the spread of infections to neighboring areas,” said Ryuji Wakita, director-general of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases.
The Olympics are proceeding against most medical advice, in part because the postponement halted the IOC's income
flow; the IOC derives nearly 75% of its revenue from selling broadcast rights, and estimates suggest it would lose $3 billion to $4 billion if the Olympics were canceled.
Around 11,000 Olympians
and 4,400 Paralympians are expected to arrive in Japan, along with tens of thousands of officials, judges
, administrators, sponsors, broadcasters, and media
. According to the International Olympic Committee, more than 80% of Olympic Village residents will be vaccinated.
Only 15% of Japanese people are fully vaccinated, compared to 47.4% in the US and nearly 50% in the UK.