The Government of Japan has decided to place a ban on fans from abroad from attending the Tokyo Olympics over fears that an influx of visitors could trigger an increase in coronavirus infections.
The Guardian reported that the government took the decision, stating that it was “not possible” to allow spectators from overseas to be present in this summer’s Games, already delayed by a year because of the pandemic.
This was because of “concerns among the Japanese public over the coronavirus and the fact that more contagious variants have been detected in many countries”.
The Asahi Shimbun stated that, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has asked the Japanese authorities to make reservations for overseas guests linked to sponsors and they are considering the requests.
Despite an increase in infections this season, Japan has had a small outbreak overall, with a death toll of about 8,300. However, it has resisted imposing serious lockdowns, though the Tokyo area is currently under a state of emergency, which makes bars and restaurants close early.
Tokyo 2020 organisers have said that the safety of the public is a “top priority” at the Olympics, which is due to start on July 23.
Reports have it that around 900,000 tickets have been sold outside Japan.
The LOC has said they plan to officially take a decision this month on the issue of foreign fans likely before the nationwide torch relay begins on March 25.
Earlier on Tuesday, there were reports that the torch-relay starting ceremony wasn’t going to have fans, but fans would still be able to line the route.
In a poll conducted by the Yomiuri Shimbun, published this week noted that more than 75 percent of Japanese do not want overseas fans at the Games.
Tokyo 2020 president, Seiko Hashimoto said that the organisers “really want to hold the event in full stadiums with fans from around the world”.
She however said, this would be difficult “if we’re not in a position where we can accept them and the situation with medical facilities, isn’t perfect”,
Organisers have already mapped out stringent rules for the nationwide torch relay, which was called off in 2020 after the historic decision to postpone the Games by a year.
Reports said organisers fear that there will be overcrowding at the March 25 starting event in Fukushima, and this will affect the initial plan of 3,000 spectators.
A spokesman for Tokyo 2020 organisers said that “details of the (relay) Grand Start are still under discussion”.
Organisers will decide the number of spectators to be in the event in April.