On Saturday, March 20, KYODO NEWS, which reported on the decision of the organizers of the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo to hold them without foreign fans, called this decision “unprecedented”. Seiko Hashimoto, the head of the OI-2020 organizing committee, said at a press conference that the difficult decision for the Japanese authorities and international sports structures to exclude foreign fans from the tournament was made taking into account the current epidemiological situation in order to avoid the burden on the country’s medical system.
It was made during a remote meeting just four months before the opening of the Games in the Japanese capital. As it’s known, the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo were scheduled for the period from July 24 to August 9, 2020, but due to the pandemic, they were postponed by a year and now are planned for the period from July 23 to August 8, 2021. Thereby, the name of the Tokyo-2020 Olympic Games is preserved.
The Japanese government has argued for the non-admission of foreign spectators to the Games, fearing that the potential mass presence of foreign spectators at the Olympics could lead not only to an increase in the incidence of COVID-19, but also to the fact that possibly mutating strains of a dangerous infection already found in other parts of the world will appear in Japan.
IOC President Thomas Bach, who participated in the meeting at which it was decided that it was impossible to accept foreign fans, emphasized that the primary task of the organizers is to ensure safety for all participants of the competition and Japanese citizens and expressed hope for the understanding of all those who expected to directly participate in the main sporting event of the year.
“We share the disappointment of all the enthusiastic Olympic fans from all over the world and, of course, the families and friends of the athletes who planned to come to the Games. I am truly sorry about this. We know that this is a great sacrifice for everyone,” said Mr. Bach.
The ban on entering the country relates not only to the fans, but also to the official volunteers of the competition. Of the 80,000 volunteers, foreigners made up about 10%. It is expected that only those foreign volunteers whose roles are difficult to substitute by someone from local residents and specialists, in particular those who speak rare, exotic languages, will be allowed to participate in the Games.
At the moment, the permissible occupancy at competitions is considered in two options – either no more than 50% of the total number of sports facilities, or the complete closure of the stands for spectators.
According to media reports, Japan initially predicted that sold tickets will reach 9 million, and the total profit from them will bring about $826 million (about ¥90 billion). There were hopes that this money would have a stimulating effect on the country’s economy, which was seriously affected by the pandemic, but last year the organizers received more than 810 thousand requests for the ticket return.
At a press conference on March 20, the executive director of the Organizing Committee of the Games, Toshiro Muto, reported that about 600 thousand tickets for the Olympics and about 30 thousand tickets for the Paralympics were sold to foreigners. The organizers promised all foreign fans who bought tickets for the OI-2020 in advance to fully compensate their costs.