After Japan issued a coronavirus state of emergency for the capital that will last throughout the event, organizers of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics have agreed to stage the Games without spectators. Following talks between the government, Tokyo organizers, and Olympic and Paralympic authorities, the decision was taken.
President Seiko Hashimoto of Tokyo 2020 said it was “regrettable” that the Games would be held in a constrained format, and expressed her condolences to those who had purchased tickets.
Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa said, “Japan will stage the Tokyo Olympics under a state of emergency and there will be no spectators at any of the games’ venues in the capital due to a resurgence of COVID-19 cases.”
Despite widespread public fears that an inflow of thousands of athletes and officials could feed a new wave of diseases, medical professionals have warned for weeks that having no spectators would be the least harmful choice. Japan has witnessed more than 800,000 cases and 14,800 deaths from Covid-19, but not to the extent that other countries have.
On Wednesday, the capital, Tokyo, reported 920 new daily cases, the highest number since May 13. Due to a sluggish vaccine introduction, just a quarter of Japan’s population has received at least one dose of Covid-19.
The majority of the torch relay, which is scheduled to arrive in the capital on Friday, has also been moved off of public highways by Tokyo authorities. Instead, spectator-free torch-lighting rituals will be placed. The Olympics were intended to be a significant tourist draw, but the restriction on foreign spectators dashed hopes of a quick rebound in inbound tourism, which had been frozen since last year.
A complete cancellation, however highly unlikely at this time, would result in a 1.8 trillion-yen loss of stimulus. However, executive economist Takahide Kiuchi of Nomura Research Institute said the loss would be insignificant compared to the economic impact of emergency restrictions if the Games evolved into a coronavirus super-spreader event.