No fans for Games as COVID punch Tokyo


Tokyo 2020 without fans Image: Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee

The most spectacular sporting showcase on earth – Tokyo 2020 – will be held without spectators with COVID-19 playing the spoilsport and casting its long shadow on the Games. If in 2020 the Games were canceled in Tokyo due to the virulent virus, this year too the virus is responsible for the sporting extravaganza to be held sans fans who form the raison d’ etre of any sporting event or musical act.

The decision is final – fans will no longer be allowed into Tokyo Olympics venues as the Japan Government declared a state of emergency in Tokyo on Thursday to contain rising cases of COVID-19.

Tokyo reported 896 new cases on Thursday, up from 673 a week earlier. It’s the 19th consecutive day that cases have topped the mark set seven days prior. New cases on Wednesday hit 920, the highest total since 1,010 were reported on May 13th.

‘USA Today’ stated that the above decision comes as a severe blow to the Tokyo organizers and will add to the cost of the Games for the Japanese people.

The announcement on Thursday followed the declaration of a new state of emergency, which takes effect on Monday and goes through August 22nd.

The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 – the most spectacular sporting showpiece on earth – will be celebrated from July 23rd to August 8th, 2021. The Paralympic Games will be held from August 24th, 2021 to September 5th, 2021.

The 2020 Summer Olympics, officially the Games of the XXXII Olympiad, and also known as Tokyo 2020, is an upcoming international multisport event to be held in Tokyo, Japan.

The ‘USA Today’ further quoted Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto as stating in a presser, “The priority will be to determine safe and secure Games. We wanted a full stadium so community people could get involved in welcoming the athletes so we could have a full presentation of the power of sports. However, now faced with COVID-19, we have no other choice but to hold the Games in a limited way.”

Hashimoto made the above statement following a decision by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the Government of Japan, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) not to allow Japanese fans into Tokyo 2020 venues.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is a not-for-profit, civil, non-Governmental, international organization made up of volunteers which is committed to building a better world through sport. It redistributes more than 90 percent of its income to the wider sporting movement, which means that every day the equivalent of USD 3.4 million goes to help athletes and sports organizations at all levels around the world.

Bonn (Germany)-headquartered the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) is an international non-profit organization and the global governing body for the Paralympic Movement. The IPC organizes the Paralympic Games and functions as the international federation for nine sports.

The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games is the organization responsible for overseeing the planning and development of the 2020 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is the Government of the Tokyo Metropolis. One of the 47 prefectures of Japan, the Government consists of a popularly elected Governor and assembly. The headquarters building is located in the ward of Shinjuku.

There is still a chance fans could be allowed at events held outside of Tokyo in areas that are not under a state of emergency.

Olympics Minister Tamayo Marukawa stated, “We will discuss.”

While a state of emergency being declared in Tokyo means that the virus situation is quite serious, but it does not mean Tokyo is under lockdown. Bars and restaurants have been prohibited from serving alcohol but remain open, as do schools and businesses.

There are even other professional sporting events taking place, but in the presence of limited fans. The Tokyo 2020 CEO, Toshiro Muto, explained that fans are being allowed at baseball games and not in the Tokyo Olympics as the size of the events are different – “Ticket holders (for the Olympics) are existing all across the country, and several competitions and events are held simultaneously. Professional sports, they are very popular I know. But in the case of the Olympic Games, the degree of popularity and size of movement of people would be so large.”

Foreign fans were banned way back in March, and organizers repeatedly dragged their feet on the decision whether to allow Japanese fans. On June 21st, organizers announced there would be a limited number of spectators, with venue capacity capped at 50 percent and a maximum of 10,000 fans in each venue.

Had fans been allowed to attend the Games, the restrictions set were severe, including no cheering or chanting and no sale of alcohol. Organizers also asked fans to go straight home after events, fearing people would gather at bars and restaurants once the events were over.

Hashimoto had warned then that the Games could still be held without fans if cases continued to rise in Tokyo, and her prophecy has come true.

Acknowledged Hashimoto, “It’s changed one way or the other on several occasions regarding spectators. But day in and day out, the infection status changes. It’s so fluid. (The decision) was postponed and postponed. I did some soul searching about that. But in this infectious status, I hope you understand the plight we were placed in.”

Hashimoto, who competed in seven Olympics as a cyclist and speedskater and won a bronze medal in the 1,500 meters at the 1992 Winter Games in Albertville (France), said the lack of spectators won’t diminish the spectacle of the Olympics. In recent years, the Games have essentially become a made-for-TV event.

She added, “Athletes will do their best. Direct observation is not possible, maybe. But through screens and other ways … their fantastic performances will be enjoyed by the people of the world.”

But the above announcement will definitely hurt the coffers of the Tokyo organizers, and will add to the cost of the Games for the Japanese people. Local organizers get the revenue from ticket sales, and Tokyo 2020 had originally budgeted that to be $800 million.

The shortfall will now have to be made up by the Japanese people. The official cost of the Games is already $15.4 billion, but it’s believed to be much higher – perhaps twice as much and COVID-19 has hit where it hurts most.

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